On earbleed and its prevention


Gah, I know, I missed a week. Holiday prep and writer’s block are no excuse, but the alternative would’ve been to recycle a post. There’s a game I play whenever I’m on the subway, which is counting how many people are on their smartphones. Since I’ve started playing, the number has ranged from about 11 in a car with about 11 people in it, to 23 in a half-full car with a few riders out of sight behind other riders, to 15 in a packed car when the only people I can see are the 15 crammed in around me (wet dog smell is, apparently, not limited to dogs). I also tend to count in those numbers the people who are using their devices for music, eyes up and away from the screen, bobbing their heads every now and again, bursting out into off-key random song. And I envy them, not because my phone’s ancient or because they’re clearly having a blast, but because they have headphones. On an older train system with increasingly piercing brake noises, they’re becoming increasingly more necessary. Noise-canceling technology uses ambient noise against itself in order to cancel out unwanted sound. It’s well beyond my capacity to explain in detail (here, this article has pretty pictures), but basically the tech takes in the rumble and rattle of the train and the taxi, the jarring jackhammer down the street, and the chatter of who-does-your-hair and who-does-your-SEO, listens to it all, then uses that information to shut them all out in favor of the music you’re actually listening to. Did my Christmas shopping just recently. (Happy Holidays! What’s yours? I pick Christmas.) Decided to grab some ear gear to see if it would help any with my current issue. The price range is staggering, from around 10 USD to hundreds, with varying degrees of effectiveness (based on listed functions and online reviews). According to what I’ve read, noise-canceling tech is better at deadening the continuous and repetitive sound of say, an engine, than the intermittent and high-pitched squealing of the brakes, which is my problem right now. And have you noticed how headphones themselves have become something of a fashion item? They’re colorful now, with bright reds and blues and bumblebee yellows standing out against dark winter coats, tiny ones disappearing under knit caps or huge leathery ones clamped over them. There was even this one set I saw on a TV show; that particular episode was set in Japan, and the headphones were pale beige with polished metal detailing. Matched the woman’s coat and hung around her neck. The gives-zero-shucks-about-fashion kinda person that I am chose an inexpensive set of noise-canceling earbuds, which I’ll test out against my current pair. Will update with results (hey, that should take care of one instance of writer’s block, anyway). Share a similar experience, if you like.

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