Invention of Noise Cancellation Headphones.

Noise cancellation technology has been with us for a couple of decades. The technology itself is fascinating and convenient, especially in times of social distancing and Zoom meetings. The story behind the tech is pretty intriguing as well.

In 1933, Paul Lueg, a doctor of philosophy and medicine in Germany, submitted a patent application about his theory for active noise cancellation. As we know, the sound is a wave created by vibration. Paul Lueg proposed the idea of combining a sound wave with an opposite wave through the help of a speaker and microphone to block sound. However, this theory was a few decades advanced at that time.

Image: Noise cancellation in a nutshell.

In the 1950s, Dr. Laurence Jerome Fogel submitted his patent and invented one of the first noise cancellation headphone systems. The headphone reduced overall noise and was designed for helicopter pilots.

In 1989, Dr. Amar Bose, the founder of Bose Corporation, invented the noise cancellation headphone that we know today. In 1978, Bose was on an 8-hour flight from Zurich to Boston. He came across the first generation of the new electronic headset as in-flight entertainment. However, he couldn’t enjoy the music because of the cabin noise. So, he started sketching and created a foundation and reference for groundbreaking headphone design. When he landed in Boston, he used his connection as a Massachusetts Institution of Technology professor and created a team of engineers to work on the project. They had a working model by 1986, but it took them 15 years to make the concept work perfectly intended.

Image: One of the design of Bose headphones.

From headphones designed for pilots and the army to the general public, I would say the noise cancellation technology has come a long way. Today, noise cancellation tech also uses artificial intelligence. The headphones intentionally do not block certain sounds that can compromise the user’s safety. For example, the sound of an ambulance is not blocked by modern headphones. In my opinion, noise cancelling headphones are one of the best ways to reduce distraction and achieve peace. 

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2 replies »

  1. Fascinating! I remember reading once about how MP3 encoding was invented. Basically, if I recall correctly, neurologists and audio engineers figured out exactly how much audio information is actually being processed by our hearing and hacked out bits of audio appropriately, so MP3 files are actually extremely short blips of audio that sound like a single smooth track. And of course the MP3 led to the CD craze, digital piracy, streaming, and all sorts of things. Audio engineering is definitely overlooked too much.

    I liked your article a lot, you should make more like this!


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