Sound leakage is a frequent problem we face with our headphones. It can be a massive annoyance to others, especially in closed spaces like libraries, workspaces, and public transport. It also hinders your ability to enjoy the music you love at a high volume.
In this article, we learn about sound leakage, the type of headphones that may have this issue, and how you can stop headphones from leaking sound.
What is the sound leakage?
Sound leakage occurs when the sound could be heard outside the audio chambers of a headphone set. Generally, this spillover effect is not observed at lower volumes. However, it becomes noticeable (and irritable) when the volume is at a higher level.
This can be very problematic if you are hearing something of a private nature or creating a professional-grade audio recording.
Why do headphones leak sound?
Sound is the sensation picked up by our ears when air particles move due to minor changes in air pressure. When some of these vibrations escape the earpieces of a headphone set, leakage occurs.
Sound leakage in headphones happens due to two reasons:
- Headphone design
- Volume change
Headphones come in many form factors, but in this section, we will discuss two broad categories:
- Open-back headphones
- Closed-back headphones
Open-back headphones are designed in a manner where the sound is allowed to be leaked. Why? For starters, sound spillage has its uses. Sound engineers mostly use open-back headphones as these headphones can provide a sense of space needed for mixing audio for movies, games, and television shows.
Closed-back headphones, on the other hand, are designed to provide immersive sound output by using sound limiting techniques like noise isolation and noise cancellation. Different types of materials are used in the earcups to isolate the sound around your ear canal. In high-end models, microphones in the earpiece of closed-back headphones cancel out the ambient noise electronically.
Even with modern technology, you need to understand that all headphones will leak sound to an extent. Manufacturers try their best to limit this effect, but complete noise cancellation does not exist.
The reason is simple. Sound is produced when air particles are moved by air pressure. To ensure that no sound escapes your headphones, you would need an airtight seal around your ear. This is not possible as your skin is porous by nature, and some amount of noise will always leak. Plus, it would be very uncomfortable to wear something like that.
When you play something at a low volume, headphones rarely leak audio for others to hear. The trouble begins when you start turning up the volume. At higher volume levels, some headphones will emit more sound than others. The problem can lie anywhere from the headphone design to imperfect fit.
Now that you know why sound leaks from a pair of headphones, you should test if your headphones have this problem or not.
How to test your headphone for sound leakage?
Well, here are the two simple methods through which you can figure out if your headphones are leaking any sound or not.
For this method, you would need a friend to help you identify sound leakage from your headphones:
- In a quiet and empty room, put on your headphones.
- Ask a friend to sit 3ft away from you.
- Start playing music at full volume.
- After a few seconds, ask them if they could hear anything.
- If they say yes, repeat the test at 6ft.
- If they say yes even after that, then you have a genuine problem.
- If you want, you can switch places with your friend to understand how much sound is leaking.
With the help of a recording device (in this example, a smartphone), you will learn how to check your headphones for sound leakage:
- In a quiet and empty room, put on your headphones and play your favorite music at the maximum volume.
- Open the sound recorder in your phone and start recording.
- Now, stretch your phone-holding arm out away from your ear.
- Hold for 10 seconds and then stop recording.
- Hear the output file.
- If you can hear the sound from the time when your arm was stretched out, then your headphones have a genuine spillage problem.
How to stop headphones from leaking sound?
This is how you can stop your headphone from sound leakage:
- Listen to your material at a low volume All headphones are prone to some form of leakage. Headphones with no noise leakage do not exist. However, most headphones do not suffer from spillage at lower volumes.
- Wear your headphones correctly Check if the ear cups are sitting over (or around) the correct ear as your headphones may have angled ear cups for a better fit.
- Check if your headphones have ear pads available with noise isolation features. If yes, use those to minimize leakage.
How to stop earbuds from leaking sound?
Earbuds are great at preventing sound leakage. However, some models may experience audio bleeding. This is how you can stop your earbuds from leaking sound:
- Wear your headphones correctly. In-ear headphones (or earbuds) are now generally created with an angled driver that sits nicely above your eardrum.
- Use the correct size of ear tips. All earbuds come with a few sets of ear tips. Check which one fits your best. Buy memory foam ear tips for the best fit.
- Wear a pair of earmuffs. Only use this method as a temporary fix.
Do bone conduction headphones have sound leakage issues?
Yes. Bone conduction headphones sit before the ear canal, and they need to vibrate to produce sound. Therefore, they tend to have a higher bleed than other kinds of headphones.
How to stop Apple headphones from leaking audio?
EarPods and AirPods are by default, designed in a manner where they are made to leak sound to keep the listeners aware of their surroundings. They are pretty much like open-back headphones. You can’t change anything about them. Some people wear earmuffs over them to reduce leakage. However, that’s not a practical solution. AirPods Pro wireless headphones, on the other hand, come with angled drivers and three sets of ear tips that provide a decent level of noise cancellation.
Can sound leakage be repaired?
Sound leakage can be fixed in some cases. However, it also depends on the type of headphones you own. If you have a pair of closed-back headphones, then you can get them repaired by a specialist. If your headphone has an open back, then you can’t do anything about it. You will have to buy a new pair of closed-back headphones or in-ear headphones with memory foam ear tips.
If your headphones have a sound leakage problem, then the best solution is to replace them with a pair of good quality noise cancellation headphones. This way, you will be able to enjoy your favourite music in all its glory.