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Best Headphones for Tinnitus

Tinnitus Sufferers Can Safely and Comfortably Enjoy Music with the Right Headphones

If you are among the 15% to 20% of people affected by tinnitus, you may be wondering which headphones will be best for you. You want to enjoy the freedom and intimacy afforded by personal listening devices without aggravating the ringing in your ears. And you care about sound quality, so you're not going to choose just any old headphone.

Tinnitus is generally experienced as a phantom ringing in the ear or ears, but it can cause other noises such as buzzing, roaring, clicking, hissing, or humming. Sometimes the sound can be so loud that it interferes with a person's ability to concentrate or to hear external sounds. Tinnitus can be constant or intermittent. The condition can very much affect a person's quality of life.  

Tinnitus is most commonly triggered by excessive noise exposure. This could be one-time loud noises such as explosions or gunshots; time spent in noisy environments; or repeated triggers like loud music at concerts or years of listening to headphones at too-high volumes. Loud sounds can injure the hair cells in your inner ear and can also lead to hearing damage or loss.

Other causes of tinnitus include age-related hearing loss (presbycusis), ear injury, a problem with the circulatory system, infections, or medications. Note that tinnitus doesn't cause hearing loss, but rather is a symptom of hearing loss.

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Is it safe for tinnitus sufferers to listen to music or talk radio/podcasts on headphones? Some people with the condition find that listening on headphones helps to distract them from the incessant sounds in their ears. Background noise like this can serve as a therapeutic form of white noise. In fact, sound therapy can be an effective treatment for tinnitus.

So the answer is yes, you can use headphones if you have tinnitus -- but the type of headphone will matter.  

1. Full-Size, On-Ear, Open-Back Headphones are Best for Tinnitus

For optimal comfort for sensitive ears and for hearing protection, full-size, on-ear headphones are recommended. Open-back headphones are preferable to closed-back headphones. You especially want to avoid tightly sealed closed-back headphones, which can cause too much pressure in your eardrums. A headphone driver produces sound by moving air, which can more readily escape from open-back earcups. When the air has nowhere to go, the result is pressure on your eardrums. Some headphones may be classified as semi-closed, and those are a better bet than true closed-back headphones. Instead of a fully sealed enclosure, these headphones have a port on the outside of each ear cup to ventilate excess energy that can build up inside of closed-back headphones.

2. Warm or Neutral-Sounding Headphones are Best for Tinnitus

Warm headphones put more emphasis on the lower registers, giving a more relaxed and immersive sound where you're not hyper-focusing on details or higher-pitched sounds. Bright-sounding headphones are not recommended, as harsh or screechy high notes can be irritating to tinnitus sufferers. A headphone is said to be "bright" when there is too much emphasis on the treble. Now, treble is where we get detail, air, and definition in our music, but for tinnitus sufferers, it's best in moderation. Likewise, analytical-sounding headphones, which highlight micro-details, can be fatiguing for people with tinnitus. You want to enjoy your music without fatiguing or irritating your ears.

3. People with Tinnitus Should Avoid Earbuds, Earphones, and IEMs

In-ear monitors (IEMs), also called earphones, sit directly in the ear canal. The pressure and nearfield of the drivers can aggravate tinnitus. The sound energy in IEMs is directed directly into the eardrum, which can be irritating or even harmful for people already suffering from hearing loss or tinnitus. While IEMs offer a level of convenience and portability, they are best avoided if you have tinnitus.

An open-back, warm-sounding headphone like the Ether 2 from Dan Clark Audio is a good choice for tinnitus sufferers.

4. Do Not Listen to Headphones at High Volumes if You Have Tinnitus

The volume at which you listen to your headphones needs to be top of mind, as listening at too-loud volumes can both lead to and exacerbate tinnitus. Volume is measured in decibels, abbreviated dB. Decibels represent sound pressure level (SPL). The higher the dB value, the louder the sound being put forth by your headphones.

Headphone sensitivity is another measure that will determine the loudness of your headphones. You can think of it as how much power the headphone will need to output higher volumes. The higher the sensitivity, the louder the headphone, and the less you will need to crank the volume to reach the sound level you desire. Scientists recommend that prolonged listening should be between 60 and 85 decibels to stay safe. As a rule of thumb, lower volumes will always be better. Always consult an audiologist for medical advice.


Headphones for Tinnitus under $1,500


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Dan Clark Audio AEON 2 Open Portable Headphones

Sound signature: Warm side of neutral

Notable: Super comfortable and foldable!

Features:

  • Type: Open back
  • Weight: 328g
  • Ear cups mimic shape of ear
  • Unique and patented folding gimbal design
  • Headphone and baffles are built from titanium alloy, aluminum and carbon fiber
  • Headband: Nickel-Titanium (NiTiNol) memory metal
  • Stock cable: ¼” with 3.5mm OR 4-Pin XLR DUMMER Cable (optional upgrade to VIVO cable

Specs:

  • Driver: Planar magnetic
  • Frequency response: Dan Clark does not report
  • Driver matching: +/-2dB to target curve, channel matched to 0.5dB weighted 30-8KHz
  • THD: less than 0.3% 20-20KHz, 0.1% 100-8KHz=

Dragon Cable upgrades available: Black Dragon Premium and Silver Dragon Premium


Focal Celestee Headphones

Sound signature: Warm side of neutral

Notable: Navy is the new black, with beautiful copper details

Features:

  • Type: Closed
  • Weight: 403g
  • Semi-aniline leather-covered ear cups with stainless steel grills
  • Leather and microfiber headband
  • Stock cable:
    • 4ft (1.2m) OFC 24 AWG cable with ⅛" (3.5mm) unbalanced TRS Jack connector
    • Jack adapter, ⅛" (3.5mm) point socket ¼" (6.35mm) point plug

Specs:

  • Driver: Dynamic; aluminum-magnesium M-shaped dome
  • Frequency response: 5Hz – 23kHz
  • Impedance: 35 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 105dB SPL / 1 mW @ 1 kHz
  • THD: 0,1 % @ 1 kHz / 100 dB SPL

Dragon Cable upgrades available: Black Dragon Premium, Silver Dragon Premium and Blue Dragon Premium

Focal Celestee Headphones with Silver Dragon
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Unavailable

Audeze LCD-2 Open-Back Headphones

Sound signature: Warm and musical

Notable: Wonderful low end. This headphone is a Moon Audio best-seller!

Features:

  • Type: Open back
  • Ear cups: Shedua
  • Ear pads: Premium lambskin leather

Specs:

  • Driver: Planar magnetic
  • Frequency response: 5Hz – 20kHz extended out to 50kHz
  • Impedance: 70 Ohms
  • Efficiency: 101dB / 1mW
  • Total harmonic distortion: <1% through entire frequency range
  • Optimal power requirement: 1 – 4W
  • Distortion: Less than 1% even at full output

Dragon Cable upgrades available: Black Dragon Premium, Silver Dragon Premium and Blue Dragon Premium


Focal Radiance Headphones

Sound signature: Warm

Notable: Limited-edition collaboration with Bentley Motors

Features:

  • Type: Closed
  • Weight: 0.96lb (435g)
  • Handcrafted in France
  • Ear pads: Pittards leather
  • Bentley copper finishes and diamond motifs on the ear cups, cables, and inside the headband
  • Cables provided: 1 x 4ft OFC 24 AWG cable with 1/8" (3.5mm) TRS Jack connector; 1 x Jack adapter, 1/8" (3.5mm) female – 1/4" (6.35mm) male

Specs:

  • Driver type: dynamic; 40 mm aluminum-magnesium M-shaped dome
  • Frequency response: 5Hz–23kHz
  • Impedance: 35 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 101dB SPL / 1mW @ 1kHz
  • THD: 0.1% @ 1kHz / 100 dB SPL

Dragon Cable upgrades available: Black Dragon Premium and Silver Dragon Premium and Blue Dragon Premium


Headphones for Tinnitus over $1,500


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Audeze LCD-3 Headphones

Sound signature: Warm and lush

Notable: Full-bodied sound with a huge bottom end

Features:

  • Type: Open back
  • Weight: 548g
  • Proprietary thin-film diaphragm that is housed between a unique super-efficient push-pull magnetic structure
  • Earcups: Precision-crafted, hand-selected Zebra Wood (Zebrano)
  • Ear pads: Premium lambskin leather, with specially molded foam
  • Steel and leather suspension headband

Specs:

  • Driver: Planar magnetic
  • Frequency response: 5Hz – 20kHz extended out to 50kHz
  • Impedance: 110 Ohms
  • Sensitivity:
  • THD: <1% through entire frequency range
  • Efficiency: 102dB / 1mW
  • Sound pressure level: >130dB with 15W

Dragon Cable upgrades available: Silver Dragon Premium, Black Dragon Premium or Blue Dragon Premium


Dan Clark Audio ETHER 2 Headphones

Sound signature: Very warm and musical

Notable: Our warmest and lightest-weight headphone!

Features:

  • Type: Open back
  • Weight: 290g
  • Choice of three different "peal-able" ear pads, each with a unique sound
  • Ear pads: Synthetic protein
  • Headband: Nickel-Titanium (Nitinol) memory metal
  • All-metal headphone cup with carbon fiber baffle

Specs:

  • Driver: Planar Magnetic
  • Frequency response: Dan Clark does not report
  • Impedance: 16 ohms

Dragon Cable upgrades available: Black Dragon Premium and Silver Dragon Premium

ETHER 2 Planar Headphones by Dan Clark Audio
Unavailable

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Meze Audio Empyrean Headphones

Sound signature: 

Notable: Amazing soundstage!

Features:

  • Type: Open back
  • Weight: 430g
  • The first Isodynamic Hybrid Array headphones on the market -- key to sound dispersion
  • Stock cable: 2.5m OFC cable with choice of XLR or 1/4" jack
  • Ear pads: two sets -- one real leather, one Alcantara
  • One of the most technologically innovative planar magnetic headphones in the world
     
     

Specs:

  • Driver: Rinaro Isodynamic Hybrid Array
  • Diaphragm type: Rinaro ISOPLANAR®
  • Frequency response: 4 Hz- 110,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 31.6 Ohms
  • Nominal SPL: 100 dB (1 mW/1kHz)Maximum SPL>130 dB
  • Total Harmonic Distortion (THD)>0.1%

Dragon Cable upgrades available: Black Dragon Premium or Silver Dragon Premium 


Focal Utopia Headphones

Sound signature: Detailed and analytical

Notable: Full-range “loudspeaker-like” sound

Features:

  • Type: Open back
  • Weight: 490g
  • Ear pads: Pittards leather and microfiber over 20mm memory foam
  • Yoke: Carbon fiber
  • Handcrafted in France
  • Two cable options:
    • 10 ft. (3m) cable: ideal for use in the home on a high-end amplifier, thanks to its balanced 4-pin XLR connector
    • 4 ft. (1.2m) cable: designed to be portable with an unbalanced 1/4” (6.35mm) stereo jack connector and 1/4” (6.35mm) jack adapter

Specs:

  • Driver: Dynamic; 40mm pure beryllium M-shaped dome
  • Frequency response: 5 Hz-50kHz
  • Impedance: 80 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 104dB SPL / 1 mW @ 1kHz
  • THD: <0.2% @ 1kHz / 100dB SPL

Dragon Cable upgrades available: Black Dragon Premium, Silver Dragon Premium or Blue Dragon Premium

Focal Utopia headphones with Black Dragon

$4,400.00


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