I need headphones where I can actually hear someone talk
April 20, 2016 4:01 PM   Subscribe

I'm going out of my mind trying to make phone calls outdoors, where everything is noisy. Help me find not-hugely-expensive headphones that will let me do this.

Once a week I need to go make a long phone call during lunch. I have NOWHERE to go indoors that's private to make said call, so I have to hang around in the great outdoors. No matter where I go, there are loud cars driving by, construction, beeping, yelling, or some other racket going on that's making it hard for me to hear the other person on the line. I don't think I can make the damn phone volume go up any louder. Likewise, whenever I'm trying to listen to podcasts outside, the conversation is frequently drowned out by the same kind of outdoor racket. I don't have this issue while listening to music, but I think the music is drowning out the ambient noisynoisynoisy I'm in anyway. I'm currently using crap cheap earbuds but am feeling like I need to go full huge headphones now or something.

Yes, this is making me wonder if my hearing is starting to go, but that's another problem Metafilter can't solve. I had a lot of ear infections as a kid and I'm sure my hearing's not super sharp and clear and awesome in the first place.

Anyway, what's the best way to for me to be able to hear conversations in a noisy outdoor environment with headphones on? Giant headphones that cover the whole ear? Those expensive noise canceling ones I've heard of? I'd rather not drop a few hundred on super good quality ones, I just want to be able to not yell, "I CAN'T HEAR YOU!" twelve times over like I did yesterday: :/ Would prefer ones under fifty bucks that I can just pick up at some chain store over "super expensive awesome quality I have to order online without being able to look at them first," but I don't know how picky I can be about that. Thanks in advance.
posted by jenfullmoon to Technology (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have a set of those cheap Bluetooth "sport" style headset that I bought from one of the remaindering sites, probably Choxi. It's an around-the-neck partial ring and ear buds on little cords attached to that. People have commented "sounds like you're vacuuming" when a bus went by, but they do an okay job of dulling some of the outside noise and being able to be cranked up enough that I can hear them.
posted by straw at 4:23 PM on April 20, 2016

I've had great luck with moderately price earbuds for these issues. The real trick is to ensure that you're using the proper ear piece that has a nice, snug fit. If you've got the correct ear-bud size they should work like ear plugs and block out almost all noise. When on a road-trip I ended up buying these cheap earbuds and they block out noise remarkably well (though the mic isn't so great for those on the other end). I don't think you should have to spend more than $20-$30. Just make sure they come with multiple ear pieces that you can try and swap out.
posted by lucasks at 4:31 PM on April 20, 2016

I go to Target and test out the over-ear ones, pick the ones that seem the most noise-cancelling.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:01 PM on April 20, 2016

What you want for this is noise isolation, not necessarily noise canceling (noise canceling only really works well with steady noise, like on an airplane.) Use earbuds that block outside noise nearly as well as earplugs -- that way you don't have to turn the volume up dangerously high to hear clearly. I love Comply foam tips for this. They come in sizes that'll fit many earphones, or if they won't fit the ones you've already got, they'll fit a lot of cheap earphones/in-ear monitors.
posted by asperity at 6:04 PM on April 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

I just use the urbanears headphones for this sort of thing - they're decent quality for a fairly low price, and are easy to find in a lot of stores. Microphone seems to do just fine too, people don't have any problem hearing what I'm saying. I use these for calls on my cell all the time, even downtown walking around at lunch.

we can get them for about $50-$60 Canadian at HMV or Chapters/Indigo, so they must be cheaper in the US.
posted by lizbunny at 7:13 PM on April 20, 2016

Yeah, you just need a pair of earbuds with an inline mic. Not the "hard" kind like the ones that come with an iPhone, but the kind with rubber tips. In my experience they block outside sound roughly as well as cheap earplugs, and in fact I've used them as makeshift earplugs on a few occasions. There are numerous brands of these in the wild that have mics for phone call use.

One catch is that it's basically like plugging your ears, so you'll get resonance when you talk.
posted by neckro23 at 10:55 PM on April 20, 2016

^F "sidetone" - no results found.


Sidetone is an intentional feedback of ambient noise from the mic into the earpiece. Most telephones have it. Few cellphones do (or they do it at a lower level)

It's a very personal thing as to whether you like it or not, but it's related to hearing impairment:

"Sidetone is valuable for the hearing impaired. The amount of sidetone typically found on land-lines is 8%, and is 4% for cellular phones. Sidetone can be, and often is, amplified for land-line phones for the hearing impaired. "
posted by soylent00FF00 at 5:34 PM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

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