Up until a couple of years ago, I had no idea what misophonia was. I had thought people and sounds just annoyed me. Eventually, my mind began to notice a pattern. Every time I hear a certain sound, it triggers a rage response. This response morphs me into a man who would do almost anything to make the sound stop. This response has led to numerous interactions with neighbors that I’d rather forget. Since you’re here right now, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Once I determined that I have misophonia, I slowly began to get it under control. One of the best ways to control a strong emotional response to sounds is to mask said sounds with the best headphones for misophonia.
In my case, nothing angers me more quickly than the screeching sound of a chair dragging across the floor. For most people, this sound is just another sound. For me, just writing about it makes my skin crawl. Unfortunately, as an American living abroad, I’ve learned that a lot of sounds that annoy me don’t annoy other folks. In fact, I’ve seen people who can sit right beside a dog barking for hours on end without batting an eyelash.
In this guide, I share the top 5 headphones on the market for misophonia and tips on how they’ve helped me cope with triggers and live a normal life. Luckily, I love music almost more than anything, and I hope you do too because nothing works better to cool a negative response to sound triggers. Isn’t it amazing how sound has the capacity to make us angrier and happier than any other sense?
Overview of the Best Headphones for Misophonia
|#1) Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones|
|#2) Bose 700 Noise Cancelling Wireless Bluetooth Headphones|
|#3) Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II Wireless Headphones|
|#4) TaoTronics Active Noise Cancelling In-Ear Headphones|
|#5) Sony Noise Canceling Truly Wireless Earbuds|
Reviews of the Best Headphones for Misophonia
There are three types of headphones that are good for misophonia, and all of them feature active noise canceling. One thing I’ve found over the past couple of years is that I use headphones a lot more than a normal person to mask sounds. Most budget headphones give out in under a year due to wear and/or failing components. If you truly want to quell your misophonia symptoms and get the best possible active noise canceling, Sony and Bose are the first places to look.
As of now, no noise-canceling tech on the market compares to Sony and Bose. Before Sony stepped up its game, Bose was the clear leader in the active noise canceling department. Nowadays, people mention Sony and Bose in the same sentence when it comes to ANC quality.
Aside from ANC, there’s also the importance of the type of headphone you prefer. Over-ear wireless Bluetooth headphones provide the best noise-canceling and are usually the most comfortable to wear for long hours. The clear disadvantage is over-ear headphones aren’t always the best option to wear in public settings since they’re large. In-ear and wireless earbuds also feature noise-canceling that works quite well. Personally, I like earbuds because I barely notice that they’re in my ears, and I can wear them in any setting.
Below, I share brief reviews for each of my top 5 picks along with the pros & cons according to owner reports. Once you check out the highlights of each model and hear what owners are saying, your final decision will be an easy one.
#1) Sony WH1000XM3 Noise Cancelling Headphones (or New WH-1000XM4)
For the money, Sony WH1000XM3 Noise Cancelling Headphones are better than Bose ANC headphones. I had the opportunity to test Sony WH1000XM3 (update: I now own the WH-1000XM4 model and couldn’t be happier) vs Bose 700 one after another, and overall, the ANC quality is about the same level of superbness. The two key reasons Sony is a better choice are the sound quality for music and lower price for better overall audio quality. However, if you’re someone who wants ANC headphones for making calls, the Bose 700 is the best model on the market for clear voice calls with active noise canceling.
Outside of sound features and ANC, another good reason to choose Sony is the materials. I found that cheap headphones with cheap materials can lead to skin irritation in the sideburn area. This reaction occurs due to the inferior ear cup material. This is an important consideration if you plan to wear your headphones to block out noises that irritate you for long hours. Since I work online, I sometimes wear my headphones for up to 10 hours or more without removing them.
Finally, Sony WH1000XM3 battery life is simply amazing at up to 30 hours per charge. That’s enough juice to get you through the airport on both ends of your journey and for the entire flight. For frequent business travelers with misophonia, long battery life is a key factor, and with Sony WH1000XM3 headphones, it’s one less thing to worry about along your journey.
- The best noise-canceling technology for less money than Bose
- Longer battery life than Bose
- Better music audio quality than Bose
- Extremely comfortable to wear for long hours
- Quick charge option provides 5 hours of use from a 10-minute charge
- Strong enough to significantly reduce the sound of voices, television sounds, jet engines, and air conditioning
- Customize the settings to use them as noise-canceling earmuffs with no music
- Ambient mode allows you to adjust the level of noise cancellation in case you need to hear a loved one or friend
- There’s an option to cup your hand over the right earpiece to temporarily lower music volume and allow outside sound in
- Completely block out most if not all neighbor sounds (which is a common trigger for us all)
- Not as good for voice calls as Bose 700
- It could be easier to switch between Bluetooth connections
- Not made for side sleepers
- Customer/warranty support could improve
#2) Bose 700 Noise Cancelling Wireless Bluetooth Headphones
The latest model of Bose noise-canceling headphones is nothing short of amazing, and the price reflects that. If you’re ready to go all-in and want top-notch noise-canceling tech & crystal-clear voice calls, this is the model for you. The easiest way to choose between the Bose 700 and Sony WH1000XM3 models is to decide how much music matters to you. If you’re an audiophile who can’t live without listening to music every day, then choose Sony. If you’re a business traveler who makes constant voice calls and uses Alexa or Google Assistant every day, then choose Bose.
One design feature I do like more in the Bose 700 is the adjustable headband. In my opinion, the Bose 700 is better for people with small to medium size heads, while people with larger heads will most likely find the Sony WH1000XM3 more comfortable. Regardless, neither set of headphones is a great choice for side sleepers. Believe me, I’ve tried to sleep on my side with over-ear headphones due to neighbor sounds that were literally driving me crazy. I ended up making it work by using a U-shaped travel pillow.
Moving right along, a couple of final features I want to highlight with the Bose 700 is the flat audio sound out of the box that you might prefer over the heavier bass sounds produced by Sony and Bose QuietComfort models. And lastly, up to 20 hours of battery life per charge is more than enough for most folks with a quick-charge feature that provides 3.5 hours of playback from a 15-minute charge.
- Crystal-clear call quality
- Better for people who work in busy office environments than Sony WH1000XM3
- Intuitive controls
- Customizable active noise-canceling settings
- Quick charge option provides 3.5 hours of use from a 15-minute charge
- ANC on the highest setting is powerful enough to create a comfortable cocoon of sound isolation
- Seamless operation with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri
- The Bose app is great for customizing all your settings and monitoring battery life
- Pricier than Sony WH1000XM3 for similar-quality ANC
- People with large heads may experience discomfort after wearing them for long hours
- Subpar music quality compared to Sony WH1000XM3
- They do not fold for storage (no hinges)
#3) Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II Wireless Headphones
Before the Bose 700, there was the QuietComfort model. Even now, a lot of people believe the QuietComfort 35 Series II is better than Bose 700. Before Sony released it’s latest industry-standard noise-canceling headphones, Bose QuietComfort headphones firmly sat at the top of the active noise canceling mountain.
Compared to the 700 model, a lot of the features of the Q35 headphones are the same, including battery life. Below, I share a list of the key differences between Bose 700 vs Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II to consider if you’re having trouble deciding between the two.
- Bose 700 offers 11 levels of ANC, while Q35 has Off, Low, and High options
- 700 features a USB-C port and Q35 is micro-USB
- Fast-charging with the 700 gives you an extra hour of playback
- Q35 has hinges and compacts better for storage
- You’ll probably find that the Q35 headphones are more comfortable, especially for larger heads (even comfier than the Sony WH1000XM3)
- Q35 features button & switch controls
Lastly, at the time of this writing, Bose Q35 headphones do cost less than the 700 model.
- More comfortable than Bose 700
- An excellent choice for people with misophonia who work in noisy office environments
- A good choice for people who aren’t tech-savvy
- Excellent battery life that matches the 700 model
- The rapid-charge feature provides 2.5 hours of use from a 15-minute charge
- The ANC is so good that there’s no reason to blast your music to block out sound triggers
- Irritating city sounds are no match for the ANC
- Smooth Bose audio quality and excellent voice call quality
- People with small heads may find the headband a bit too big
- Bass lovers will want to stick with Sony
- Not as stylish as the 700 or Sony models if you care about this sort of thing
- Some complaints about the Bluetooth range
#4) TaoTronics TT-EP008 Active Noise-Canceling In-Ear Headphones
I own a pair of over-ear TaoTronics ANC headphones, and the company is easily my favorite budget brand. My only complaints are the durability of the ear cups and the large headband. My head is relatively small (I wear a size 7 1/4 fitted cap), and the headphones fit a bit too big even when tightened all the way. For these reasons and a couple of others, I don’t recommend TaoTronics over-ear headphones for misophonia.
Now, the in-ear headphones are a different story. Since there’s no chance of cracking ear cups or these fitting too big, you pay significantly less than what Bose charges for its in-ear ANC headphones, which have very mixed reviews. Until Bose hits a home run with its in-ear models, it’s best to take the budget route.
Also, it’s important to consider that since the headphones are inside your ears, the quality of the ANC is less important than when choosing over-ear models. Especially, if you plan to listen to music most of the time you’re wearing them rather than using them as noise-canceling earmuffs.
The specs for the TT-EP008 are quite impressive in this price range. Each charge provides up to 15 hours of continuous boosted audio and active noise canceling. The ANC feature reduces outside noise by up to 30 dB. To give you an idea of how powerful that is, even the best earplugs reduce outside sounds by roughly the same amount. In essence, you get a combination of headphones and earplugs with this unit.
- Multiple earbuds and hooks included ensuring they don’t fall out
- Significantly cheaper than Bose or Sony
- The most trustworthy budget headphone brand that actually stands behind its warranty
- Use the noise cancellation feature without playing music to reduce outside sounds by up to 30 dB
- A good choice for use while working out or running on a treadmill
- Excellent sound quality for the money
- Great at blocking low-frequency humming and droning sounds
- Better for travel than more cumbersome over-ear models
- They’re not cordless
- Does not block out mid-range and high-pitched sounds as well as the over-ear models
- Fragile compared to premium headphones
- Not the best choice for voice calls
#5) Sony WF-1000XM3 Noise Canceling Truly Wireless Earbuds
If I had to choose just one set of headphones in this guide, these would probably tie with the Sony over-ear model. Compared to over-ear and in-ear models, the noise-canceling technology in wireless earbuds is still catching up, but Sony is clearly the current leader. The biggest hurdle is the price tag since wireless earbuds are a lot easier to lose than over-ear headphones. Having said that, if you’re a careful person, you might find that these are the best headphones for misophonia overall.
If you’re a frequent flyer, it’s hard to beat the convenience of wireless earbuds. Plus, earbuds look more professional than over-ear headphones since most people won’t even notice you’re wearing them. Now, let’s talk about the quality of the ANC in these earbuds. Is it on par with the Sony WH1000XM3? The answer is no, yet it’s a lot better than what the Taotronics headphones above offer, and it’s the best you’ll find in the wireless earbud department.
Several final features that make these awesome are the comfortable design that also helps them stick to your ears without fear of losing them, impeccable sound & voice call quality, rapid-charging, and 6 hours of playback per charge is impressive. Additionally, there’s an app to control your ambient sound settings and sound levels.
- The auto on/off feature is quite nice to conserve battery life
- Great for city commuters who don’t want to worry about over-ear headphones being snatched or drawing attention
- The rapid-charge feature provides 90 minutes of playback from a 10-minute charge
- Excellent voice call quality with sound-isolating microphones to eliminate outside noise
- The preferred choice in this guide for light air travel with a carry-on only
- Best sound quality offered by noise-canceling wireless earbuds
- The customizable noise-canceling options for different environments allow you to switch with the tap of a button
- Bass is just right for hip hop and lo-fi music lovers
- The ANC is not as powerful as the over-ear models
- The high upfront cost for wireless earbuds
- No volume control on the earbuds
- Finding the right tips in the package and adjusting them to create a good seal takes some patience
If you’ve never worn ANC headphones before, the very first thing to do is test a pair before you buy. Since all misophonia sufferers have different triggers, it’s important to check if ANC headphones block out the sounds that irritate you the most. For the most part, ANC headphones do a better job of blocking low-frequency sounds than high-frequency sounds. In my case, high-frequency sounds are my triggers.
As I mentioned earlier, the sound of chair legs screeching when dragged across the floor is the ultimate trigger for me. Unfortunately, there are no noise-canceling headphones on the market that can completely block out this sound. Although, from my experience, they do dampen the sound to the point that it doesn’t affect my mood. Especially when I listen to white noise or music on low with the ANC.
Before I wrap up, I’ll share a tip with you that’s the best way to block out noise with noise-canceling headphones. The method is to use over-ear noise-canceling headphones together with earplugs. What I do is insert the earplugs, then put on the over-ear headphones with the active noise canceling on max. This combination is as good as it gets for blocking out all sounds around you with ANC headphones. My level of productivity skyrockets when I combine the power of earplugs and ANC headphones.
Now that you’ve checked out the best noise-canceling headphones for misophonia, I’m confident that you have a better idea of which type and brand will help you the most.