The Many Benefits Of Active Noise Cancellation

2605 words - 10 pages

One of the major problems that society faces today is noise pollution. Everywhere people go there is always something that is making a sound. It can be very loud such as a plane flying overhead, or it could be quiet like the fan of a computer. When a person is exposed to certain noises for extended periods of time it can not only damage their hearing, but also effect their mood, energy level, and productivity. As a result, there has been a push in the last fifty years or so to silence some of the annoying sounds that assault people’s ears everyday. While it might seem as simple as covering ones ears, the scientific community has been applying their knowledge in the hope of creating a more peaceful world.
All waves, whether it’s a wave in water or an acoustic wave, are made up of specific parts. They all have crests, highpoints, and troughs, low points. The distance between two of these crests or troughs is called the wavelength. The height of a crest is the amplitude, and the number of crests that pass a point in one second is the frequency. When two waves encounter each other they pass through one another, and the amplitudes of the waves combine. This is called interference. The first type of interference is called constructive interference. This is when two waves combine to form a wave that is larger than each individual wave. The second type of interference is when two waves combine to form a wave that is smaller than the original two. This is called destructive interference. If the two waves are identical in every aspect except that they are 180 degrees out of phase from one another, then the two waves will combine to form a wave that has been completely counterbalanced, where the amplitude is zero. In addition, if the anti-wave is going in the opposite direction as the wave, than the result will also be a wave with an amplitude of zero. If you apply these rules to sonic waves, in theory you could be able to completely silence any sound that is being made. This is the idea behind noise cancellation.
The most common application of noise cancellation today is noise-cancelling headphones. There are two types of noise-cancelling headphones. The first is called passive noise cancelling. This is when the material in the headphone itself is able to block out any sound waves that try to pass through it. This is made possible with the use of heavy, “high-density foam and sound-absorbing materials” (Harris). This means that all of the sounds that are surrounding the listener are reduced, regardless of their source. These headphones typically result in a drop of about twenty decibels. If you want a more thorough reduction of a specific sound, then it is better to use active noise-cancelling headphones. Active noise-cancelling headphones are where destructive interference comes into play. These headphones have a little microphone on them that take in the ambient sound. The wave produced by this sound is then flipped and...

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