The world is full of so many amazing songs, engaging podcasts, and interesting videos. You absolutely need a good pair of headphones or earbuds to consume all that content! The right pair, though, comes down to who you are and what you prefer.

So what are your options? Tune in for a guide to all things headphones. You’ll learn about the different types, the most popular brands, and just why that right earphone never seems to be as loud as the left.

What Are Headphones?

The definition of headphones, according to Techopedia, is “a pair of small speakers used for listening to sound from a computer, music player, or other such electronic device.” They’re a portable way to hear your favorite songs, podcasts, audiobooks, and videos.

In 1910, Nathaniel Baldwin created the first headset that could amplify sound. It was designed for the U.S. Navy during World War I, which made it easier for them to communicate from a distance. The headphones were made from copper wire and leather.

Today, headphones are much more advanced and some don’t even require wires to function. They’re worn by just about everyone, from young kids taking the bus in the morning to adults who hit the gym after work.

Nathaniel Baldwin made the first headsets in his kitchen at home. The U.S. Navy loved them, but Baldwin could only make about 10 at a time since he was a one-man show.

What Do People Use Headphones For?

Headphones are used for portable listening, whether it’s rocking out to a playlist or checking out a new podcast. You will likely put on a pair for any of the following:

  • Work
  • Exercise
  • Studying
  • Commuting
  • Cleaning
  • Gaming
  • Talking on the phone
  • Waiting for an appointment

Work

A 2020 report by the BBC found that music in the workplace can make us feel smarter and put us in an overall better mood. You can also get a lot of tasks done listening to an engaging audiobook or podcast.

Exercise

Runner’s World Magazine found that exercising with headphones helps you get pumped up and keep a consistent pace. Ultimately, it’s more enjoyable to be active if you can listen to something interesting.

Studying

Popping in headphones for a study session may just improve your cognitive performance, especially if you listen to classic music. It’s said that Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven are best for boosting concentration. Are you a college student? You can also save money by getting the audio version of textbooks.

Commuting

Commuting can be brutal – just ask anyone with serious road rage. Studies show, however, that listening to music, podcasts, or audiobooks can ease the stress, boredom, and anxiety that comes with going from one place to the next. Make sure you’re only using headphones when someone else is behind the wheel!

Cleaning

Washing the dishes, vacuuming, yardwork, and doing laundry may seem mundane, but chores can be more enjoyable if you listen to music or some other audio content. It will help you get into the zone and encourage you to clean a little more often.

Gaming

Gamers may rock a pair of headphones or a headset as they’re playing online against others. Headphones are used equally for being immersed in the game and talking trash to the competition.

Talking on the Phone

Some headphones come equipped with a built-in microphone. It’s more comfortable to talk to your grandma or best friend if you don’t have to hold the phone to your ear for an extended period of time. You might even cause significant neck and shoulder pain or stiffness from holding your phone for too long.

Waiting for an Appointment

Whether you’re waiting for the bus or sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, a pair of headphones can make it seem more bearable. You will think less about how bored you feel and the wait will seem to go faster.

A good pair of headphones is a worthwhile investment. You will use them over and over again, so take the time to search for a pair that works well with your lifestyle.

What Are The Different Types of Headphones?

Just like any piece of technology, there’s a lot of variety when it comes to headphones. It really depends on what type of fit you’re looking for and how you’re going to use them.

The different types of headphone styles include:

  • Wireless (Bluetooth)
  • Earbuds (In-ear)
  • Circumaural
  • Supra-aural
  • Noise-cancelling
  • Bone conduction
  • Closed-back
  • Open-back
  • Semi-open
  • Waterproof
  • DJ

Wireless

Wireless headphones work via Bluetooth, a type of technology that connects two devices together via radio waves. Bluetooth is popular since you don’t have to worry about a pesky cord getting in your way.

Earbuds

Also known as “in-ear headphones,” earbuds are extremely popular with runners, commuters, and teenagers who want to discreetly listen to music while they’re in class. Earbuds typically offer good sound quality and are the easiest, most lightweight style to carry.

Source: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/

Circumaural

Circumaural is a fancy way of describing headphones that fit over your ears. The squishy, big earcups are fitted to an adjustable headband that sits on top of your head. You’ll also sometimes hear this style referred to as over-ear headphones.

Source: https://www.amazon.com/

Supra-aural

Supra-aural is another way to refer to on-ear headphones. The earcups are typically smaller than a circumaural pair, which makes them more stable for athletes during conditioning or practice. They also have a stylish vintage look that makes them a favorite among the hipster crowd.

Source: https://www.bestbuy.com/site/

Noise-Cancelling

If you’re on a noisy train or airplane, noise-cancelling headphones are an absolute must. The earcups are extremely cushy and comfortable. These headphones basically isolate you and your audio content from any outside noises.

Source: https://road.cc/content/review/

Bone Conduction

Most headphones block the ear canal, allowing no other sound to enter. Bone conduction headphones, on the other hand, send vibrations to the bones in your inner ear. They are worn above the ears, which makes them excellent for anyone with hearing issues.

Closed-Back

A closed-back design keeps what you’re listening to private. It’s the most common type of fit since the speaker is on the inside of the cups, allowing you to keep the sound close by.

Source: https://audio46.com/

Open-Back

It might seem strange, but open-back or open-air headphones have the speakers fitted on the outside of the earcups. This style is typically used on soundstages or in music studios when the songs are being performed live.

Source: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/

Semi-Open

A pair of semi-open headphones is a happy medium between closed-back and open-back pairs. They don’t completely seal the speaker, instead allowing in some air and ambient noise. They’re great for casual listening if you’re just relaxing at home.

Source: https://h2oaudio.com/products/interval-swim-solution-for-ipod-shuffle

Waterproof

Do you want to go for a swim or take a bubble bath while wearing headphones? Give a waterproof pair a try! This style is specially made to withstand water without getting destroyed or causing your ears any damage.

Source: https://www.amazon.com/

DJ

While a DJ can use any style of headphones, the pros look for a pair that allows different sounds – one in the left speaker and one in the right. These headphones can even play different tracks in each earcup for those moments when you’re really in the groove!


Headphones Vs. Earbuds: What’s the Difference?

If you were to picture headphones in your mind, you would likely envision either: 1) closed-back headphones, which fit over the head and feature cups that go on top of the ears; or 2) earbuds, which stick directly into your ear canal to produce sound.

Here’s a basic overview of headphones vs. earbuds:

The key differences between headphones and earbuds include:

  1. Headphones are worn on top of the ears, while earbuds are worn inside of the ears.
  2. For the most part, headphones are more comfortable to wear and will last for a longer period of time.
  3. Earbuds are easier to clean, safer to carry with you on-the-go, and typically less expensive than headphones.
  4. When it comes to sound quality, you can typically expect headphones to be better than earbuds.
  5. Both earbuds and headphones come in a variety of colors, including Bluetooth options.
  6. You can customize either style with a design via screen printing or digital printing.

What Are Headphones Made Of?

It seems like magic that makes your headphones so lightweight and comfortable to wear. However, you should actually give credit to the materials that are used to make your favorite pair!

Headphones are made from some combination of the following materials:

  • Aluminum
  • Artificial leather
  • Ceramic
  • Copper
  • Memory foam
  • Plastic
  • Rubber
  • Silicone
  • Textiles (Fabric)
  • Vinyl

Softer materials, like silicone, memory foam, fabric, and vinyl, are used to create the cups or buds that rest on or in your ears. Rubber, plastic, ceramic, or aluminum create the shell, while copper can be found in the wiring that produces the sound.

What Are the Most Popular Headphone Brands?

You can buy a generic pair of headphones at any pharmacy or gas station, or you can splurge on a brand name. From AirPods to Beats, there are a ton of stylish options out there!

Here are the most popular headphone brands on the market today:

  • AKG
  • Apple
  • Beats
  • Bose
  • JBL
  • Panasonic
  • Philips
  • Raycon
  • Sennheiser
  • Skullcandy
  • Sony
https://moranalytics.com/partyallthetime

AKG

You can thank AKG for introducing us to both supra-aural and open-back headphones. This brand experienced a huge boost in popularity when their K240 model was used in Eddie Murphy’s music video for the song “Party All the Time!”

https://www.flare.com/news/apple-airpods-pro-review

Apple

Apple has totally changed the market on earbuds with the release of AirPods. These in-ear headphones are totally wireless and insanely popular. In fact, close to 60 million pairs of AirPods were sold in 2019, with the numbers continuing to grow.

https://hypebae.com/2018/3/ambush-beats-by-dre-collaboration-headphones-yoon-instagram

Beats

Legendary hip hop artist Dr. Dre started Beats in 2006 and sold it to Apple 8 years later for a staggering $3.2 billion! Beats are designed for music lovers, and according to the website, “help bring the energy, emotion, and excitement of playback in the recording studio to the listening experience.”

https://www.facebook.com/Bose

Bose

It’s important to have choices while looking for new headphones. Bose prides itself on offering a variety of styles – wireless, noise-cancelling, headsets, speakers, earbuds, and even Bluetooth sunglasses with an integrated microphone!

https://www.bassheadspeakers.com/best-jbl-headphones

JBL

Woodstock 69 was one of the most iconic music festivals of all time, and JBL speakers were present for that moment. Since then, the brand has been producing high-quality headphones and speakers in a variety of styles.

https://worthpin.com/pin/12084/

Panasonic

Panasonic is a technology juggernaut that basically does it all – lights, appliances, TVs, laptops, phones, cameras, projectors…the list goes on and on. Their headphones are known for being soft and durable, while at the same time offering bass-thumping sound.

https://www.reddit.com/r/ZReviews/comments/cvkkzz/philips_fidelio_x3/

Philips

If you visit the Philips website, you will see that they’re determined to offer you headphones that “fit your lifestyle.” You can filter the options between different types like noise-cancelling, over-ear, sports, kids, and more.

https://www.rtings.com/headphones/reviews/raycon/e55-truly-wireless

Raycon

Raycon was started by R&B superstar Ray J, and his goal was simple – to offer premium wireless headphones without the ridiculous price tag. Many celebrities love this brand, which helped it bring in a cool $10 million in sales in 2019.

https://www.reviewed.com/headphones/features/how-to-buy-the-best-sennheiser-headphones-for-you

Sennheiser

Start saving your money because Sennheiser headphones are a bit more expensive than other brands. It’s worth the investment if you’re into gaming or do a lot of traveling. They even offer professional headphones and air traffic control headsets!

https://musiccritic.com/equipment/headphones/best-skullcandy-earbuds

Skullcandy

Fortune Magazine has called Skullcandy “the world’s coolest earbuds,” and it’s no wonder why. The brand offers a variety of eye-catching colors, artistic packaging, and an extremely affordable price. They also get additional “cool” points for having collaborated with Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, and Metallica.

https://www.soundguys.com/the-best-bluetooth-ldac-headphones-of-2020-29515

Sony

Like Panasonic, Sony is another titan in the world of technology. You can get any type of headphone you want and get the peace of mind knowing you bought something from a trusted brand. Sony models frequently make the list of “best headphones” year after year.

Why is the Left Earphone Louder Than the Right?

Nothing is worse than having to deal with uneven sound on your headphones. If your left earbud is louder than the right, it means that there’s an issue with the plug, wire, or with the connectivity.

Plug (Wire Headphones)

Check to make sure the jack is plugged all the way into your device. It’s also possible that there may be dirt or debris in the connector or the port. Use compressed air to blow it out and try again. If that doesn’t work, it may be time to replace the headphones.

Wire (Wire Headphones)

You may find that moving your wire to a certain area causes you to briefly get sound from both earbuds. If this is the case, you can pin it to the right spot using electrical tape. It’s a temporary solution until you can get a better pair of headphones.

Connectivity (Wireless Headphones)

Surprisingly, desks, walls, and other barriers could interfere with a wireless connection. Make sure your Bluetooth is properly connected and also check your device’s audio settings. This could be what’s causing the uneven sound in your headphones.

Don’t throw your headphones away if one earphone is louder than the other! Try to clean them first as dirt, earwax, or debris could be interfering with the sound. You can also double check that the wire isn’t going faulty and that your device is connecting properly.

Are Headphones Harmful?

Headphones bring us endless entertainment, from podcasts and music to audiobooks and YouTube videos. Despite all that greatness, it’s worth noting that overly loud sound, sharing the headphones, or falling asleep to your music could be harmful to your health.

Are Loud Headphones Bad for Your Ears?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and Harvard Health, listening to loud headphones may cause hearing loss, tinnitus, dizziness, or an ear infection if you’re not careful.

Here’s how to avoid any hearing loss or ear damage from using headphones:

Choose the right pair

Consumer Reports recommends looking for over-ear or noise-cancelling headphones. You won’t have to play the audio as loud, which saves your hearing in the long run.

Always use both headphones

We all have two ears for a reason! Putting in just one headphone causes your ear to strain to hear the sound without the help from its partner. This isn’t good for your ears!

Check your device’s volume settings

You shouldn’t listen to your headphones any higher than 60% volume. Avoid blasting the sound any louder, especially if you’re wearing the headphones for a longer period of time.

Make sure no one else can hear

It’s safe to say your headphones are too loud if the people around you can hear them. Share your audio instead by using portable speakers.

Put them to the test

Do you want to check if your headphones are too loud? Take them off and hold them at arm’s length. If you can still hear the audio, it’s time to turn down the volume.

Speak to your doctor

If you’re not sure about your headphone volume, ask a trusted medical professional for more information. They will be able to give you the best advice when it comes to avoiding hearing loss or damage.

How Long Is It Safe to Wear Headphones?

It’s safest for you to wear your headphones for an hour or less each day. In fact, experts recommend following the 60/60 rule – keeping your volume under 60% and listening to headphones for about 60 minutes every day.

If you do need to listen for a longer period of time, take 5 minute breaks every hour. Set a reminder on your phone and give your ears a bit of relief. It might seem extreme, but it’s worth making sure you keep your hearing safe from harm!

Can Sharing Headphones Make You Sick?

You might not get sick from sharing headphones, but it does introduce new bacteria into your ears. This increases your risk for earaches, fungus, or swimmer’s ear, which is an infection of the outer ear associated with redness and pain.

We’ve all been more mindful of good hygiene due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. You’ve likely been wearing a face mask and applying hand sanitizer throughout the day. As the virus spreads, it’s also a good idea to avoid sharing your headphones with anyone else.

Is it Safe to Sleep With Headphones On?

Experts are torn as to whether or not it’s safe to fall asleep while wearing headphones. Some say it could be a good way to relax and block out any noise. Others warn that the headphones could damage the tissues in your ears and may even pose the danger of strangulation if the headphones have a wire.

Do you need some kind of noise to fall asleep? It might be a better idea to listen to music, podcasts, or any other noise via a Bluetooth speaker. Put the volume on a lower setting and get that much-needed rest!

How Do I Choose Good Headphones?

Are you about ready to buy your next pair of headphones? Look for all of the following while you’re doing your shopping!

Comfortable fit

You don’t want a pair of headphones that hurts your ears or head. Test them out in the store, even if you have to run around in circles and look like a weirdo. It’s worth making sure you like how they feel before you buy.

Compatibility

The headphones should work in harmony with your phone or media device. After all, most of us listen to Spotify or stream podcasts directly from our phones. There’s no reason to buy a pair unless it works with your device.

Sound quality

Excellent sound quality should be at the top of your list. You want headphones that produce clear, crisp sound at 60% volume, while at the same time providing little echo or static.

Strength and durability

A good pair of headphones will stand the test of time. In fact, you should get 1 year out of earbuds and at least 3 years out of circumaural or semi-aural headphones.

Portability

You’re always on the go, which means your headphones should be easy to bring along. Look for a lightweight pair that folds closed or comes with some kind of carrying case.

Good reviews

Consumers like you will recommend the best headphones on the market. Check review sites for information and see what other people think before you make a decision.

Bonus features

Let’s say you’ve found a few awesome headphones, and you’re deciding between the pairs. Go with the one that has additional features like a microphone or adjustable volume controls.

Price

At the end of the day, you work hard for your money and shouldn’t just spend it willy nilly. Compare the prices of your favorite brands and styles and select a pair that works within your budget.

Stats for Success

The global market for headphones and earbuds is expected to be worth $20.8 billion by 2025.

87% of people who own headphones most commonly use them to listen to music.

61% of runners listen to something on their headphones while they’re putting in the miles.

The Bottom Line

Life would be way more boring without headphones. They make it possible for us to indulge in ear candy of all kinds, whether it’s a high-energy playlist, an engaging podcast, or a good audiobook. You have a ton of headphone styles to choose from, so rock the pair that works best for you!

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About the author

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is a promo expert with over four years of experience in the industry. She is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products and has had work published for the Promotional Products Association International and the Advertising Specialty Institute.