Let’s talk about wireless headphones today!
The persistent tinnitus and everything that goes with it led me on a search to find adequate headphones and earbuds with noise-cancelling features. I use them to block out and dull ambient sound while listening to masking tracks, different color noises, and music.
They help with reducing and regulating the volume around me because sudden spikes in volume, loud noises, or lots of simultaneous conversations and clatter cause The Ringing to get worse which brings with it pain, migraines, anxiety, and vertigo.
At this point, in addition to so many different medications, supplements, alternative treatments, and so many doctors visits, I’ve tried more devices than I can count. I’m surprised Amazon hasn’t flagged my account for returns but I’ve settled on three that I think are worth mentioning. I use them for different situations so for anyone interested in wireless headphones and earbuds, today’s Manic Thoughts will be a quick rundown/review of what I’m using these days. All are wireless and connect via Bluetooth and NFC.
I was using a pair of Avantree AuditionPro for quite a while. They are super lightweight and relatively inexpensive. They do not have active noise-cancelling and the cans are wide but they feel very comfortable, offer an incredibly long life on a single charge, and are as lightweight as any headphones I’ve ever worn. I still have them and offer a solid recommendation for anyone looking for a mid-priced over-the-ear Bluetooth set of headphones. However I needed something with active noise cancelling and a smaller form factor because I typically wear these at night in bed to block out the TV that the missus likes left turned on at bedtime.
I decided I’d go straight to the top and go with the Bose QuietComfort35. At this price range I expected to be blown away on all levels but despite the schmancy packaging, I was very disappointed. The noise cancelling was really good but produced a noticeable hiss. The headphones felt hey felt very big on my head as if I’d purchased an extra-large instead of a large and as such I could never get them to stop sliding off.
Despite the hiss and poof fit, I thought I’d give them a week or so to see if my opinion would change. After a few days the left side began crackling nonstop so that was that. I sent them back and decided to try a few options at a lower price point. I ended up testing models from Avantree, Mpow, Paww, and Cowin. They were essentially the same pair of headphones with only slight differences in cup size or molding. My suspicion is that they are all made in the same factory and just get a different brand stamped on them. None proved to do the trick. Too tight, too big, cups were too small, audio quality was terrible, and/or noise cancelling was either non-existent or created too much hiss.
They all went back.
That led me to Sony’s WH-CH700N headphones. At almost half the price of the Bose, but still expensive, I was hesitant to pull the trigger but I couldn’t be happier with them. From the moment I put them on they felt custom-made. The ear cups fit around my ears perfectly, audio is crisp, and the cans are flat enough that I can, with a bit of positioning, lie on my side to sleep. The noise-cancelling is excellent without creating that hissing sound. The controls are easy to reach and I thoroughly enjoy wearing them. I prefer cans to buds and I find myself wearing them in the kitchen as well. They don’t move around much when I move though they are obviously not made for any sort of really active movements. I wouldn’t hit the gym or go on a run with them at all. Long plane ride? Absolutely. Cooking in the kitchen? Check. Chasing toddlers? Nope.
Which brings me to the earbuds….
Typically I can’t stand them. Never have. As a friend put it to me a while back, they feel “rapey.” I just don’t like the way I have to jam them in my ear. They give me ear fatigue and I am unable to wear them for very long without having to take them out. Thus I expected it to be difficult to find something that would work for me to use when I am in active mode chasing Oliver, cleaning house, playing ball, running around town for grocery shopping and errands, or lugging laundry, boxes, toys, etc.
In this space Bose did come through but not without a bit of getting used to wearing their funny buds.
I went with the Bose Quietcontrol 30s. It took a couple weeks to settle on the size tip I wear and exactly how to position them but once I did they provided me with exactly what I was looking in terms of a lightweight solution to provide noise-cancelling features with no wires to get in the way. The sound quality for music is incredible but for voice calls, they’re pretty awful. I seem to hear people just fine but others seem to hear me at a great distance and buried beneath whatever ambient noise is around me. I now just turn Bluetooth off when a call comes in.
I do love the ability to wear one bud in my left ear, the one that rings, with a gentle masking track playing while my right is free to hear the world around me as “normal.”
They use a rubberish neckband so when you pull the buds out the earbuds rest over the chest. I tend to wear these all day and pop them in and out as needed.
They aren’t perfect though. Despite their unique earbud design ear fatigue is an issue and after even just short periods of time my ear feels strained. I wonder if perhaps I’m “in between sizes” as far as the tips go.
The other big issue I have with them is the neckband. It can be quit uncomfortable. On a hot day they can feel grimy against my neck. Carrying the baby has often resulted in one or both of the tips being pulled off and having to order replacements. Sometimes if I’m not wearing them, they get caught on things like seat belts. The band, though somewhat flexible doesn’t really wrap up into anything small enough to jam in a pocket, though they do come with a fantastic carrying case.
Still, they have been my go-to buds for about a year now.
The search to address those negatives though has led me to the Jabra Elite 65t “truly wireless” earbuds.
While they do not advertise true active noise cancelling as a feature, I’ve found them to be excellent in this regard and they do provide a feature that allows you to determine how much of the outside world you want to hear…just like the Bose earbuds do.
They are completely wireless in the same style as the Apple airpods or Samsung IconX. I had tried a very cheap version of these and was hardly impressed so I didn’t think I’d give it another shot. I was worried I’d lose one or that they wouldn’t stay on right, or that the connection between the buds would be shaky or whatever but wrestling with the neckband and getting the earbuds caught on stuff with the Bose I thought, what the heck, let’s give it a shot.
I’m please to say that after a weekend of steady use they are ticking all the boxes in terms of being as good as advertised.
Like with the Bose, it took a little bit to find the right size tip (they include a few sizes) and how exactly they need to sit in my ear but once I figured all that out everything has gone quite well. My first impression was that there was no bass response but then I realized they weren’t seated in my ears properly so after a little more adjusting I found the sound quality to be quite good.
There are controls on each bud allowing you to turn them on and off, pause and play, skip, and raise/lower volume. The long press needed to skip tracks or quick press to control volume can be a bit irritating because I’m essentially pushing the entire bud further into my ear but I’m getting used to the pressure needed and I don’t expect it to be a long-term issue. Removing one bud pauses the music and then once it’s back in the music picks back up. I think that’s a pretty nifty feature.
Like the Bose and the Sony headphones, these have an app that includes various EQ options as well as colored noise settings built right in. While not as robust as some of the other tinnitus treatment apps I use, it is good to have.
They are lightweight, don’t poke out of the ear much more than in-ear reference monitors used on stage and during these hot and humid days where I have lots to do I can pop these on and not worry about the Bose neckband feeling heavy or sweaty and I don’t worry about the wires and buds getting caught on anything. Surprisingly, the Jabra buds feel very secure in my ears and the only time I dropped one was when I fumbled it while pulling it out.
Downsides? Battery for one thing. On a full charge you can get about 5 hours. My Bose can keep going for close to 24 hours without having to recharge. I only charge the Sony headphones every few days but keeping two buds synced to one another and to a Bluetooth device isn’t exactly easy when you’re talking about accomplishing all that without wires.
To account for this Jabra ships them with what initially looks like a charging/carrying case but it itself is a battery that can charge the buds on the go. Supposedly on a full charge, the box can recharge your buds twice in order to keep you going for the whole day. When they run low just plop them in the case and let them charge for a few minutes.
All in all, I think my search every-day headphones is over. I’ve got three sets to handle any given scenario that provide me, most importantly, with relief from the constant Ringing. Later this week I begin a new therapy program that will hopefully provide further relief and ease the need to rely on such devices.
I can say though, over the last 6-8 weeks I’ve seen noticeable improvement. I’m listening to music at slightly louder volumes and not regretting it five minutes later. I’m wearing the buds a bit less often and sometimes I’ve even forgotten to bring my Bose to work, today I brought my Jabras to see how they do.
So I’m hopeful that with continued therapy as well as identifying and avoiding triggers that cause increases in volume and headaches I’ll be continue to see improvement.
One of my biggest goals is to be able to spend a good couple hours playing and writing in The Cathedral in hopes of resuming work on my album…that should have come out last year but will come out one day.
That’s it for today.
Be Well and Kind,