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7 reasons to buy noise-cancelling headphones

Block out noise for better listening, workouts, travel, work and sleep. 

woman working from home wearing headphones with young child
Last updated: 28 March 2024

Zoom calls on the go, noisy neighbours, sound sensitivity or a house member learning the trumpet: there are plenty of reasons you might need a little help tuning out. 

In addition to muting life's soundtrack, noise-cancelling headphones can help you have better conversations, more productive workouts, better sleep and more immersive listening experiences.

To help you choose the best noise-cancelling headphones for you, CHOICE experts test a range of models priced from $149 to $899, from brands including Sennheiser, Sony, Apple, Bose and more. 

We do a series of tests to assess how each product performs for sound and listening quality, comfort, durability and battery life.

Check our noise-cancelling headphone reviews to see which performed better than the rest, and read on to find out what our experts say about why you might want to pick up a pair.


Noise cancelling headphones can be useful for tuning in to online meetings and calls at work.

1. They'll help you work from home or on the go

These days the living room or bedroom are doubling as the office, but that doesn't mean your fellow officemates received the memo. 

Noise-cancelling headphones let you politely put the mute button on your partner unstacking the dishwasher or your housemate watching TV. 

Taking a work call during your commute, in a cafe or another noisy environment? Noise-cancelling headphones can eliminate some of the distraction so you can focus on the conversation at hand. 

However, they don't all deliver the serenity they promise – check out the headphones we suggest you avoid

How we test headphones

CHOICE tech expert Peter Zaluzny breaks down what goes into our sound and listening scores.

"First, a panel of five experts listen to a range of music genres and podcasts with noise-cancellation off and no background noise to see how the feature affects audio during playback," says Peter.

We've found some headphones with top-level noise cancellation which perform particularly well on calls due to their voice isolation and amplification, but sacrifice sound quality in return, making music sound flatter.

"Next, the panel listens to the same audio with noise-cancellation on and noise in the background, such as the sound of air conditioning, trains, aircraft, passing cars and background conversation. 

"Lastly, an artificial ear listens to tones at different frequencies and testers watch for technical anomalies such as distortion."

2. Blocking out noise while you sleep

Ear plugs can only do so much. Whether you live on a busy street, are a shift worker, or simply need help getting to and staying asleep, noise-cancelling headphones can offer you consistent silence all night long. 

They can also be handy for catching some zzzzzzs in a noisy environment such as on a train, coach or plane. 

Most wireless headphones won't last as long with noise-cancellation turned on so check the battery life score in our headphone reviews

CHOICE tech expert Peter Zaluzny

"If you're using headphones for a long stretch of time, you'll want to consider battery life," says Peter. 

"Most wireless headphones won't last as long with noise-cancellation turned on so check the battery life score in our headphone reviews."

3. Better immersive listening and watching

Noise-cancelling headphones can help you escape the real world, block out distractions or lose yourself in your latest interest. 

Want to watch trashy TV uninterrupted? Listen to your guilty-pleasures playlist without being judged? Make housework a little less boring with the help of a podcast? Noise-cancelling headphones can help make that happen. 

If you're planning to give your headphones a workout, check CHOICE's headphone reviews to make sure you're purchasing a pair that'll last. 

Our expert testers inspect each headphone's materials, hinges, connections and buttons, and conduct 10 drop tests from a height of 1.8 metres to check how they fare, as well as a light rain test to check weather sealing.

woman holding up noise cancelling headphones

From noisy neighbours to sound-sensitivity, there are many reasons why noise-cancelling headphones can be useful.

4. To turn down the volume on the world

In lieu of a holiday, noise-cancelling headphones can help restore some peace and tranquility to your everyday life.

They can take the edge off sensory overwhelm from repetitive or irritating noises, cocoon you in silence when you need an escape from the world, or allow you to tune out boisterous children or chatty co-workers. 

If you're not familiar with them, you may experience slight discomfort with active noise-cancellation turned on at 100%, which can feel similar to being underwater. 

Luckily, most headphones come with accompanying apps that allow you to adjust noise-cancellation levels and reintroduce some ambient noise, says Peter.

5. For a soundtrack to your workout

Not a fan of the hectic tunes your gym blasts at 7am? Looking for motivation to hit the pavement? Noise-cancelling headphones give you control over what you're listening to no matter what's happening around you. 

And when you're running, jumping or dancing, you'll want to make sure your headphones stay put. 

In addition to our normal wear test, in which testers move their heads as one would throughout the day, we also put headphones – and our testers – through a mini Olympics. 

Testers wear headphones for 20 minutes at room temperature and then complete five-minute physical tasks such as running, power-walking and jumping jacks, says Peter, to see what they're like wearing in a realistic scenario. 

To see how a pair of headphones fared when given a workout, check out the comfort score in our detailed headphones reviews.


Noise-cancelling headphones can really shine on long-haul flights.

6. To make air travel easier

One place where noise-cancelling headphones really shine is in the air. 

When you're flying long-haul and really need to get some shut-eye, noise-cancelling headphones make a world of difference by blocking out excess noise.

If you want to enjoy in-flight entertainment with your headphones you'll need a cable and two-pronged aeroplane adapter. Only some wireless headphones come with these so be sure to check before buying, or purchase a cable and adapter separately.

7. To help reduce stress on your hearing

While noise-cancelling headphones are not considered medical hearing protectors, they can help reduce stress on your hearing. 

Your hearing can be damaged by long or repeated exposure to anything over 85 decibels – things such as playing music through headphones at full volume, sirens, fireworks and the like.

Noise-cancelling headphones can help protect against exposure to unavoidable noise. And by reducing the external noise that would usually cause you to crank up the volume, they'll help you listen to your music at a healthy level.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.