What is Headphone Sound Leakage and How to Fix It?

When it comes to music, audiobooks, and podcasts, headphones are designed to provide you with a private listening experience. However, when your headphones leak audio to the degree that it annoys people around you, this objective is defeated. Imagine looking to your right and seeing someone next to you searching up how to stop headphones from leaking sound. That would be embarrassing, wouldn’t it?

When you wish to use your headphones in a very quiet place, such as a library, classroom, or office, this discomfort is magnified. Especially if you rely on your headphones to boost your productivity and speed up the pace of your day, you’ll be wondering how to fix headphone bleed but will have trouble fixing it. 

Today, we’ll look at what sound leakage is, how it might influence your headphones, and how to make headphones not leak sound.

Understanding What Sound Leakage Is

In order to understand how to stop headphones from leaking sound, you need to first know what sound leakage is. When the sounds within your headphones escape outside to the extent where they can be heard by people around you, it’s known as sound leakage or sound bleed. This is owing to the headphones’ inability to contain all of the sound-producing air vibrations.

While ear cups and design factors may significantly minimize sound leakage, totally eliminating it without making the headphones unusable is challenging. However, there are various methods for reducing sound leakage to the point that it is virtually non-existent. Today, we will help you understand how to make headphones not leak sound.

Understanding What Sound Leakage Is

Causes of Sound Leakage

Size of the Driver

A headphone driver’s job is to turn electrical impulses into sound. They’re basically tiny loudspeakers that convey sound into your ear. The smaller the driver, the less sound leaking you’ll get in general.

Larger drivers, on the other hand, provide greater bass because they can push and draw more air. As a result, you must first consider your priorities in terms of driver size, as well as the pros and downsides of each. Then you will be able to decide which method you will use if you are trying to find out how to make headphones not leak sound.


The design of your headphones has an impact on how much sound leaks when they’re worn, specifically if your headphones are open-back or closed-back. Understanding this will help you in finding out how to fix headphone bleed.

The rear panel of the earcups distinguishes open-back from closed-back headphones. Closed-back headphones are closed for optimum isolation, whereas open-back headphones feature openings that allow airflow through the earcup.

Closed-back headphones offer less sound leakage than open-back headphones because their design has fewer openings for sound to escape through.

Closed-back vs open-back headphones

Type of Transducer

Transducers are in charge of absorbing one kind of energy and turning it into another. A transducer in headphones converts electrical energy into mechanical wave energy, allowing us to hear noise through sound waves.

Sound leaking is handled differently by each transducer. Planar Magnetic transducer headphones leak significantly more sound than Dynamic or Balanced Armature transducer headphones because they produce sound bi-directionally.

Why Does Sound Leakage Annoy People?

Although everyone reacts differently to sound leakage, the truth remains that it will bother someone, even if it is not you. Sound leaking is a concern for a number of reasons:


Headphones are designed to allow you to listen to music in private. Knowing that those around them can hear what they’re listening to may make some individuals uncomfortable. While it’s not quite the same as listening to music over a speaker, sharing your listening experience defeats the point of headphones.

It Disturbs others

Listening to music while working or commuting may transform the experience in a positive way. However, it might become a nuisance for people around you. The noise escaping from your headphones can be incredibly irritating and annoying to people who are attempting to learn or focus on anything essential.

The noise escaping from your headphones can be incredibly irritating and annoying to people who are attempting to learn or focus on anything essential.

Recording Music

Music (or other types of audio) recording is a sensitive procedure. To record high-quality audio, the microphone must be extremely sensitive. If your headphones leak sound, it can get into the microphone and be apparent in the recording. The recording would be deemed unusable and would have to be re-recorded if this happened.

Effects of Sound Leakage on the Performance of the Headphone

When it comes to headphones, sound leaking isn’t always a deciding issue for some. Some headphones include components that prevent sound from leaking without compromising sound quality.

Quality of Sound

Although sound leaking is frowned upon, it isn’t always as awful as it appears.

Sound leaking is common with open-back and semi-open headphones, for example. Most audiophiles, however, still favor them because their open-back design allows for a more natural listening experience than closed-back models. Their open-back design enables air to move through, preventing pressure from building up and affecting audio quality.

Noise isolation

The capacity of headphones to passively block noise that enters and exits the headphones is referred to as noise isolation. This is accomplished through the use of design components and padding.

In general, if the headphones have strong noise isolation, the sound leakage will be reduced as well.

However, noise-isolating headphones can have the same effect on audio quality as closed-back headphones. Air vibrations can’t leave your headphones since they’re meant to keep noise within, limiting the soundstage and even causing sound distortions.

Testing Your Headphone Before You Learn How To Fix Headphone Bleed

It’s difficult to notice that your headphones are leaking sound when you’re wearing them. It is frequently not until someone alerts you to the problem that you are able to take the required actions to fix it. This may be humiliating and have a poor impact on someone’s first opinion of you.

It’s a good idea to test your headphones for sound leaking prior to avoid this occurring to you. Here are a few simple methods to put them to the test.

Recording the leakage

You may use a microphone or a sound recorder to capture how much sound is leaking from the headphones and then play it back to hear what it sounds like. An easy way of doing this is to use your smartphone to record the sound while listening to music through headphones.

Testing with a friend

If you don’t have the equipment to conduct a recording test, you can rely on your senses with the assistance of a friend. Allow your friend to use your headphones while you listen to music. Increase the volume gradually to test the various levels of sound leaking. When you’re pleased, put on the headphones and ask your friend to listen to know what they think.

Do a cheek test

Place both earcups on your cheeks while wearing the headband behind your back. To make the test as accurate as possible, ensure sure the seal is intact. Check how much audio leaks by playing your music at the volume you normally listen to.

While it isn’t a perfect match for when your headphones are on your ears, it is a quick and easy way to observe how much audio is leaking if the other two techniques aren’t possible.

How to Make Headphones Not Leak Sound

Now, if the preceding tests reveal that your sound leakage is really loud, don’t panic! Take a look at a few strategies to prevent sound leaking from your headphones before you go out and buy a new set.

In the case of IEMs, Foam tips should be used instead of silicone tips.

Silicone tips are the most common type of earphone tip found with IEMs. When it comes to noise isolation, though, foam tips are preferred. Because the foam molds to your ear’s shape, it creates a tight seal that eliminates outside noise while delivering audio straight to your ear canal.

Replacement earplugs

If you’re looking for the best earbuds with minimum sound leakage, check out our article on Earbuds That Don’t Leak Sound.

And if you are an AirPods user but are wondering how to stop AirPods from leaking sound, first check out our article:

Do AirPods Pro Leak Sound?

Replace your earpads if you're using headphones.

The choice of material used in your headphone earpads can affect how much sound your headphones leak, just like the sort of tips you choose for IEM earbuds. In general, you’ll want earpads that provide decent noise isolation. Leather (both imitation and real) and memory foam are the greatest options for noise isolation.

When worn, leather and memory foam form a barrier around your head, reducing the noise entering and exiting your headphones. Sound is contained better when there are fewer places for it to escape.

Replace your earpads if you're using headphones

Reduce the volume.

The loudness of your music is a big factor in sound leaking. The louder you play, the more sound leaking you’ll get. If you’re in a very quiet setting, dialing down the level may be sufficient to prevent sound leaking.

Make your headphones noise-proof.

For those who prefer a more hands-on approach, you may tweak your existing headphones or design your own unique pair of headphones that are tuned to your preferences.

Headphones With The Least Amount Of Sound Leakage

The finest headphones for preventing sound leaking are those with a design that produces a good seal. The two varieties of headphones with the least amount of leakage are mentioned below:

In-ear headphones — In-ear headphones are less likely to create sound leakage at safe listening volumes due to their tiny driver size. Furthermore, their tips may conform to the contour of your ear, forming an excellent barrier that prevents sound from escaping.

Closed-back headphones — Closed-back headphones are designed to keep sound contained within the headphones. Sound leakage is kept to a minimum since there is less area for sound to escape. An over-ear design can form a seal around your ear to lock the music, even more, reducing sound leakage even further.


All varieties of headphones, at the end of the day, will leak sound. We don’t currently have the technology to make a set of headphones with no sound leakage that are practical as well. However, by considering the aspects discussed in this article, you will be able to make an informed decision about how to limit sound leaking from your headphones.

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Paul Goral

I am the founder of North Creek Music and I have a master’s degree in Engineering Acoustics. Sound is my passion. I wanted to start this blog and share my passion with others.

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