Why you shouldn't wear headphones while working

Jakob Christensen on June 07, 2019

There are lots of good reasons why you’d want to don headphones and listen to music while coding. They block out noise and help you concentrate. Th... [Read Full]
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Interesting read. I will say though that certain music without lyrics (especially low-fi beats and synthwave) can help get me into the zone and focus on my work without distraction or procrastination. I definitely hear you (no pun intended) about making sure the volume isn't too much - the last thing you want is tinnitus.

As for networking, sure, that's a fair point, but I think there are a lot of times where people want to just get on with their work without conversation, speaking from personal experience at least. Also putting on headphones is a polite way of signalling that you're working and might not necessarily wish to be disturbed.


All valid points and I agree. I still use headphones when I need to shut everybody else out. Previously though, I put on my headphones by default. Now, the default is to not wear headphones.

Thanks for reading.


Just to clear some misconceptions.

I had some doubts about your tinnitus claims and after talking to my wife (doctor at ORL) she has confirmed them. Wearing headphones cannot be linked to development of tinnitus in normal conditions.

Tinnitus can develop in the following headphones scenarios:

  • You wear headphones with verly loud music for a long period of time regularly
  • You wear noise cancellation headphones and remove them in very noisy environment (sudden volume change, like someone screaming into your ear after putting them down)

I'm myself a long term headphones user, metal band player, loud music seeker and I have no tinnitus whatsoever (I'm almost 40).


Thank you so much for your feedback and for clearing that up.

It kind of makes sense now since I know excactly which day the tinnitus started: I was putting up a new fence and used a used a pile hammer to drive the fence posts into the ground without wearing ear protection. I just kind of figured that it was related to my general hearing loss. Whenever I do put on headphones my tinnitus gets a bit worse for a while afterwards.

I have never been listening to loud music with headphones - only at concerts and though speakers.

You must be in kind of a risk zone as a metal band player? Lots of rock musicians have hearing loss and tinnitus, right?



I should have written probably I'm a former metal band player. Not drumming anymore. But I still enjoy loud hard rock/ metal music anytime I'm alone ;)


I cannot concentrate with noise around me. So music is not an option, but just noise cancellation is certainly helpful.
Also when you are in flow and try to get things done you probably don't want to network or get interrupted and headphones show that. So maybe don't use them always, but they are certainly helpful sometimes


I agree headphones are helpful. Do you have a lot of noise in your office?


Well, I am still in college, no office, but the library where I spend a lot of time has a group work area that is quite loud and not properly separated from the quite study area.


Some really excellent points here! One take you might like is that a team tends to go through phases of working quietly and chatting. Which is great for getting work done, because it's naturally quiet and you'll all take a break at roughly the same time.
But in an open plan office, the team next to you may well be quiet when you're loud, and vice versa. Better office space certainly reduces the need for headphones.
And whene'er I work from home, I find I don't need them, or music, at all.


It's true, sometimes there is like a general consensus on when to concentrate on work and when to talk. I think it is important for the employer to think about noise when choosing interior such as carpets, furniture and ceiling.

At home I sometimes put on low music on my Sonos speaker while working. It's a lot easier on my ears than headphone.


I truly agree about losing out on networking with colleagues. Headphones make most sense in open offices or co-working spaces like WeWork when you are trying to get stuff done and there's too much noise in the background. Otherwise, it's much better to not wear headphones and use other productivity hacks/tools like Pomodoro time-boxing etc. to get more done.


Pomodore is a great help. I tried it once but somehow forgot about it again.


Not every office includes opportunities for networking. If you work in a co-working location (or like to work from someplace like the local coffee shop), you probably oughtn't be trying to network. If you work for a large organization where they tend to assign seats on a simple "as available" basis, the people around you may be no more relevant to your work than randos at a coffee shop.

If hearing loss is a concern, one can simply don hearing-protection earmuffs or even just good ear-plugs (Eargasms are great for both concerts and noisy offices).

...And, if you worked where I work, pretty sure you'd not have written this article. Some work-spaces simply aren't manageable without something to deaden, mask or drown-out the noise. On the plus side, the usual source of noise appears to be on PTO, today.


no offense but all-or-nothing approach is not good. Occasionally headphones work while meditating. but as you said keep wearing it is not good. Everything in moderation.


I am sorry if you read it as an all-or-nothing approach because that is not what I meant to convey. What I did write, though, was (and I quote):

please be careful

and also

[...] please, please please [...] do it as little as possible

Thanks for reading.


So you might want to change the title
'Please don’t use headphones when working'
to something else.
It's misleading and sound baiting.

I see your point and we sure don't like click baiting. I changed the title to Why you shouldn't wear headphones while working.

I hope you like it better?


Speak up I can't hear you? 😉 An interesting article I shall have to do an experiment on Monday.

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