Do noise cancelling headphones work without music?

Woman enjoying peace and quiet from the noise cancellation of Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones

Some days, it feels like the world is just too noisy. Disruptive ambient noises can impact your sleep, productivity at work, and relaxation time, which is why people often look for ways to block out the busy world around them. Noise cancelling headphones are useful if you want to listen to your favorite music, but what about those times when you crave peace and quiet? Do noise cancelling headphones work without music? The short answer is yes: Bose noise cancelling headphones can be used without playing music or other audio, and they’ll still block out ambient noise around you.

This works with both earbuds and over-the-ear headphones, as long as they have active noise cancellation technology. If your headphones are powered on, they’ll monitor for external noises and create opposite sound waves to cancel out most sounds — it’s perfect for airplanes, busy offices, or when your neighbor is mowing their lawn too early in the morning.

Whether you’re on a busy train or surrounded by people talking in a coffee shop, noise cancelling headphones offer a way to tune out disruptive environmental sounds. Here’s how you can use active noise cancellation to your advantage if you’re not in the mood to listen to audio.

Understanding active noise cancellation

To understand how Bose noise cancelling headphones work, it’s important to first understand active noise cancellation (ANC) vs. passive noise cancellation technology. What is active noise cancellation? This noise-reducing technology uses tiny microphones inside your headphones to recognize and analyze loud ambient noises. The microphones are able to produce an opposite noise that cancels out the original sound when the two sets of sound waves meet inside your ear canal. As a result, active noise cancellation delivers excellent sound quality along with sweet silence, even when you’re in a busy location.

Passive noise cancellation relies solely on creating a physical barrier that prevents sound waves from entering your ear canal. Foam earplugs are an example of passive noise cancellation — they create a tight seal inside your ear to block noise.

How do noise cancelling headphones work without music?

If you have Bose ANC headphones and want to turn on noise cancellation without any music, start by disconnecting your phone from your headphones. (The exact process will vary depending on the smartphone operating system you use.) Alternatively, you can just turn off the Bluetooth® settings on your smartphone. Once this is done, simply turn on your headphones and activate Quiet Mode. For Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds, touch and hold on one earpiece, or for Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones, press the Multi-function button.

When you want to connect your headphones again, just turn Bluetooth back on and reconnect the device through the Bluetooth list in your phone’s settings.

Tips for using noise cancellation without audio

There are a few other things to keep in mind when using ANC headphones without music playing.

  • Over-the-ear headphones may work slightly better for blocking out ambient noises, as their foam earcups create a tight seal that offers additional passive noise isolation.


  • Active noise cancellation works best on steady, low-frequency sounds, such as the drone of an air conditioner or lawn mower. While it still reduces other frequencies and loud noises, making them less jarring, it won’t block out higher-pitched sounds completely.


  • Because ANC requires electronics to operate, it will use up some battery life even if music isn’t playing. You’ll want to make sure your headphones are charged before using them to cancel out environmental noises.


  • Using active noise cancellation without music can take some getting used to. Some people may experience the sensation of “pressure” in their ears, similar to when you change altitude on an airplane, as your brain may interpret the absence of low-frequency sounds as a pressure difference between the inner and outer ear.


Enjoy peace and quiet with active noise cancellation

For those times when you don’t want to use your headphones with spatial audio to listen to music, you can still reap the benefits of their active noise cancellation abilities. Bose products offer world-class noise cancellation abilities that effectively block out the world around you, allowing you experience peace and quiet no matter where you are.

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Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones
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Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds tdt
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds
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