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 don't want to settle for just any old headphones.

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, and it 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.

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.  

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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 lower frequencies, 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 inside 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 headphones will need to output higher volumes. The higher the sensitivity, the louder the headphones, 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.

Dan Clark Audio AEON 2 Open Portable Headphones

Dan Clark Aeon 2 Open headphones with Silver Dragon
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Notable features:

  • Super comfortable
  • Unique and patented folding gimbal design
  • Ear cups mimic shape of ear
  • "Memory metal" headband

Sound signature: Warm side of neutral

Standout genres: Rock and Metal

Dragon Cable recommendation: Silver Dragon Premium

Focal Celestee Headphones

Focal Celestee Headphones with Silver Dragon
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Notable features:

  • Navy is the new black, with beautiful copper details
  • Semi-closed earcups
  • Impactful but not overbearing bass
  • Comfortable and stylish

Sound signature: Warm side of neutral

Standout genres: Blues, Folk, Country

Dragon Cable recommendation: Silver Dragon Premium 

Audeze LCD-2 Open Headphones


Notable features:

  • Meaty low end
  • Smooth top end
  • A Moon Audio best-seller
  • Hand-selected Carribean Rosewood ear cups

Sound signature: Warm and musical

Standout genres: Jazz, Blues, Folk, Country

Dragon Cable recommendation: Silver Dragon Premium 

Focal Clear Mg Headphones

Focal Clear MG Headphones with Black Dragon
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Notable features:

  • Great reference sound
  • Chic and elegant design
  • Comfortable
  • Easy to drive

Sound signature: Neutral/warm

Standout genres: Blues, Folk, Country, Rock

Dragon Cable Recommendation: Silver Dragon Premium

Audeze LCD-3 Headphones


Notable features:

  • Full-bodied sound with a huge bottom end
  • Rich and engaging midrange
  • More resolving than the LCD-2
  • Zebra Wood (Zebrano) ear cups

Sound signature: Warm & Musical

Standout genres: Jazz, Blues, Folk, Country

Dragon Cable Recommendation: Silver Dragon Premium

Meze Liric Headphones

Meze Liric Closed Back Headphone
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Notable features:

  • Semi-closed ear cup design
  • Sleek black design with copper accents
  • Meze's first portable planar magnetic headphone
  • Easy to drive

Sound signature: Neutral-warm

Standout genres: Jazz, Blues, Folk, Strings

Dragon Cable Recommendation: Black Dragon Premium

Dan Clark Audio ETHER 2 Planar Headphones

ETHER 2 Planar Headphones by Dan Clark Audio

Sound signature: Very warm and musical

Notable features:

  • Our warmest headphone
  • One of the lightest-weight audiophile headphones
  • Choice of three different "peal-able" ear pads, each with a unique sound
  • Romantic, immersive sound

Standout genres: Blues, Folk, Country, Classical

Dragon Cable recommendation: Silver Dragon Premium

Meze Empyrean Headphones

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Sound signature: Warm and lush

Notable features:

  • Huge soundstage
  • Beautiful, comfortable design
  • Excellent intstrument separation
  • One of the most technologically innovative planar magnetic headphones in the world

Standout genres: Classical, EDM, Bluegrass

Dragon Cable recommendation: Silver Dragon Premium 

Focal Utopia 2022 Headphones

Focal Utopia 2022 Headphones with Silver Dragon Headphone Cable


Notable features:

  • Full-range “loudspeaker-like” sound
  • Smooth top end
  • Wide and detailed sound
  • Comfortable and stylish

Sound signature: Warm & detailed

Standout genres: Blues, Folk, Americana

Dragon Cable recommendation: Silver Dragon Premium 


Best Headphones for Audiophiles with TInnitus