Interesting Facts about Headphones

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Not long ago, just about everybody was using wired headphones. That isn’t the case any longer, though. Headphones are getting more and more popular every day. Why is the number of wireless earbuds increasing so much? One reason is that they’re great alternatives to traditional wired earphones, which can be uncomfortable at times.

Early models of wireless headphones had limited capabilities, and the sound quality wasn’t as good as wired earphones, but these days there are numerous models out there that offer excellent quality and impressive features. Some people even use them to listen to music at work or just to block out sound from the outside world. Here are 20 interesting facts about headphones that you might not know before:

1. Headphones Initially Had Only One Earpiece

Headphones Initially Had Only One Earpiece

The first forms of headphones were used by telephone operators back in the 1880s when they used a simplified version of the device. The device had only a single earpiece connected to a device and a mouthpiece for transmission.

The device to which the earpiece was connected weighed around 6-11 pounds and had to be rested on the shoulder of the user. [1]

2. Nathaniel Baldwin, the Inventor of Headphones, Was First Rejected By the Navy

Nathaniel Baldwin, the Inventor of Headphones, Was First Rejected By the Navy

Looking at how useful the innovative device was at the time, the Navy asked Nathaniel to shift to Utah so that he could move out of his kitchen and into more advanced facilities. However, as Nathaniel was a polygamist, he refused the offer.

He was contacted by a company called Wireless Specialty Apparatus Co., which took advantage of him declining the Navy. They manufactured the headphones with him in a factory located in Utah. However, Nathaniel worked with the company on one condition; he would only work if the device was sold to the Navy without an increase in the price. [1]

3. Headphones are Also Known As Cans

Headphones are Also Known As Cans

Headphones are called cans by hipsters who wanted an easier spelling for headphones to Google. Cans were slang that was used in the past for anything that produced sound and was listened to by putting them to the ear, like an earpiece.

4. Before Dr. Dre’s Beats, there was the Koss Beatlephone

Before Dr. Dre’s Beats, there was the Koss Beatlephone

The founding father of stereo headphones, John C Koss, was not only a great inventor, but he also had great marketing capabilities. With the help of several celebrity endorsements of his product, he quickly took over the headphones market in the 60s/70s era.

This made it an even better match when his firm Koss Electronics, teamed up with one of the biggest celebrities in the era, The Beatles, to come up with the idea of the Beatlephone. [1]

5. The Very First Headphones Were Created In the Kitchen

The Very First Headphones Were Created In the Kitchen

The creator of the first modern headphones was Nathaniel Baldwin. Nathaniel created the headphones in his kitchen all by hand. It was later sold to the Navy as radio equipment. However, the rate of production was really low, around 10 at a time. [2]

6. Headphones were Initially Not Meant to Be Portable

Headphones were Initially Not Meant to Be Portable

Headphones were first created to be used for listening records at home. This idea made the idea of portability less of a concern for headphone manufacturers. This is also the reason why headphones back then weighed around 1 to 2 KG. To give you a rough idea, the Beats headphones now weigh 215 grams.

The demand for portable headphones increased drastically when Sony released Walkman. Not only did it increase the demand, but it shifted the momentum of the market.

7. Noisy Airplane Engines Were the Reason behind Noise Cancellation Headphones

Noisy Airplane Engines Were the Reason behind Noise Cancellation Headphones

Amare Gopal Bose, Founder of Bose Corporation, was on a flight that flew from Zurich. He wanted to try out the entertainment that the flight had to offer. However, due to the noisy airplane engine, he could not fully enjoy the experience, leaving him disappointed.

According to some, he immediately took out his notepad and started noting down ideas of how headphones can cancel out outside noise. By the time the airplane landed, he already had the idea of the product that he had thought could work. This idea would out bring Bose huge fame and wealth. [3]

Bose’s noise cancellation headphones were first targeted at the aviation industry. In the 1980s, new airplanes came without insulation that surrounded the cockpit so that the plane could become lighter, saving fuel costs. However, this caused loud noises within the cockpit, causing speculations that this would cause hearing issues for the crew. Bose’s noise cancellation headphones were used, resulting in a major success. Later on, in 2000, Bose introduced its QuietComfort series for the mainstream market. Bose is now the gold standard for noise cancellation headphones.

8. Beyerdynamic Created the First Dynamic Headphones

Beyerdynamic Created the First Dynamic Headphones

A breakthrough in the headphones market came in 1924 by a German engineer called Eugen Beyer. He initially founded the company Elektrotechnische Fabrik Eugen Beyer, which produced loudspeakers in Berlin. In 1937, by the time the company was renamed Beyerdymanic, it brought out the DT 48, the world’s first dynamic headphones.

It brought high levels and better sound quality than Baldwin’s Radio Headset. Beyerdynamic’s headphones did use Baldwin’s basic design but greatly improved the comfortability. The product back then was so innovative that it is still produced today, with slight changes and improved sound quality. [4]

9.  AirPods were a Major Reason for the Popularity of Earbuds

AirPods were a Major Reason for the Popularity of Earbuds

In the late 90s, MP3 players were really popular, as they allowed users to keep multiple albums at a time for playback. However, with time MP3s slowly started to fade away. This is where the Apple iPods launched in 2001, revolutionizing music listening.

The most notable feature of the new iPods was their earbuds. These new devices were smaller and easy to put in your pocket or bag. It was a new trend that moved digital music into a new era.

10. A Headphone Combined with a Microphone is known as a Headset

A Headphone Combined with a Microphone is known as a Headset

A headset is when a headphone is combined with a microphone. Headsets are the same as a telephone set that has a hands-free operation.

Headsets are also used in areas like aviation, television studio systems, and gaming (PC or Console). Headsets come with a single-earpiece or a double-earpiece. The microphone of the headset is a type of microphone where it is held in front of the user’s mouth. Some headsets are voice tube types where the microphone is installed within the earpiece, and the user’s voice reaches with the help of hollow tubes.

11. Test Earbuds with Older Music

Test Earbuds with Older Music

While testing your earbuds, it is better that you use older music as a sample. This is because new musicians compress their frequencies to enhance the sound experience to get the best possible sounds. Back when older music was created, it had higher frequencies which are better when testing the quality of your earbuds.

12. Using Headphones for Prolonged Periods May Cause Hearing Loss

Using Headphones for Prolonged Periods May Cause Hearing Loss

Using headphones when you study, travel, or work out is normal nowadays. This has caused many people to be inseparable from some users, but this has its consequences.

Listening to high music through headphones can cause partial hearing loss or, even worse, permanent damage. This is due to the hair cells in the cochlea bending. Hair cells take time to recover from vibrations caused by the noise. The cells never recover and are too damaged to function properly in some cases. This leads to longer-lasting hearing loss, which is almost impossible to recover from. [5]

Earbuds are designed in such a way that the user inserts them in their ear; this blocks the air passage, increasing the risk of infections.

13. Earphones Can Also Cause Damage to the Brain

Earphones Can Also Cause Damage to the Brain

Earphones have electromagnetic waves that can be dangerous for the human brain. There is yet to be proper evidence on this matter, but daily users of Bluetooth and earphones have been seen having issues. [6]

14. The World’s First Earphones Were Unveiled at the IFA Technology Show in Berlin

The World’s First Earphones Were Unveiled at the IFA Technology Show in Berlin

The world’s first wireless ear headphones were unveiled in Berlin at the IFA technology by Onkyo, a Japanese consumer electronics manufacturer. HP also has wireless earbuds called The Elite Wireless Earbuds. They are known to be the first truly wireless earbuds from HP. [7]

15. Ever Experienced Electric Shocks While Using Your Headphones?

Ever Experienced Electric Shocks While Using Your Headphones

Many people experience “electric shocks” when using their headphones due to electrostatic discharge (ESD). This is caused by the buildup of static electricity in your body due to friction from walking around on the dry ground or rubbing your feet across carpeting.

16. The Term “Headphones”

The Term “Headphones”

The term “headphones” comes from the early days of telephony and radio when the earpieces that received sound from the telephone’s transmitter were called “receivers.” The first recorded use of this word is found in an advertisement for a 1902 issue of Radio News magazine and predates its use for speaker-like audio equipment.

17. Before the Invention of Stereo Headphones

Before the Invention of Stereo Headphones

Before stereo headphones existed, one way people could listen to stereo recordings was by using two separate monaural speakers: one for each channel of the recording. However, this was a costly solution, and those who could afford it wanted something more portable and convenient.

18. The Human Ear Canal Can Only Accommodate an Object with a Maximum Diameter of 5mm

The Human Ear Canal Can Only Accommodate an Object with a Maximum Diameter of 5mm

This is why the earbud design was created. However, compared to the very large over-the-ear headphones, earbuds are more prone to falling out of the ears and are less comfortable. Earbuds are also not as effective at blocking external noise as over-the-ear headphones.

19. Have you Ever Wondered Why Pilots Wear Headphones?

Have you Ever Wondered Why Pilots Wear Headphones

Headphones are important for pilots because they provide both communication and noise reduction between cockpit crew members and ground control staff, as well as cutting out engine noise during flight, to improve their conditions during long flights over water or remote areas without adequate ground-based navigation aids.

20. Headphones can be Beneficial for People with Hearing Problems

Headphones can be Beneficial for People with Hearing Problems

Headphones can be beneficial to people who are deaf or have hearing problems if they use them with a hearing aid device or cochlear implant, so they can communicate more easily with family and friends at home, school, or work and hear loud alarms or signals that they otherwise would not be able to.

Conclusion

Did you know that headphones were first designed for use with telephones? This may seem obvious now, but the original purpose of headphones was to allow one person to hear another or vice versa. Today, we can see a variety of headphones on the market.

Furthermore, many design factors must be considered when manufacturing headphones, including physical aspects, sound quality, weight and size, functionality, degree of innovation, and cost.

References

  1. https://www.headphonesty.com/2016/01/6-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-headphones/
  2. https://lstnsound.com/blogs/main/a-brief-history-of-headphones
  3. https://krisp.ai/blog/noise-cancelling-headphones-story
  4. https://blog.teufelaudio.com/the-history-of-headphones-and-the-beginnings-of-portable-sound
  5. https://www.regainhearing.co.uk/can-headphones-cause-hearing-loss
  6. https://www.business-standard.com/article/health/here-s-how-prolonged-earphone-use-can-infect-or-damage-your-ears-119052500964_1.html
  7. https://speakers.rdtk.net/wireless-headphones/questions-and-answers-headphones/who-made-the-first-true-wireless-earbuds/

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