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How Open Back Headphones Made Me a More Considerate Roommate

Photo by Alphacolor on Unsplash
Photo by Alphacolor on Unsplash

This might sound counterintuitive, but gamers: do your roommates a favor and pick up a open-back headset.


I’m the begrudging shot-caller in my Overwatch group, which involves making strategic decisions on-the-fly based on the opposing team’s actions, and communicating those new plans as the game goes on. And needless to say that things can get heated... and loud, especially in big team fights and do-or-die moments.

My roommate, who enjoys the occasional bath in the bathroom that shares the wall with my room, hears all of this. She reports that her zen is often interrupted by my, um, salty language.

Of course, the know-it-alls out there would probably just tell me to just be more mindful of my volume. But I’ve got science on my side, and we’re all predisposed to speak louder when we wear headphones.

In fact, our brain automatically adapts our voices to speak over loud noises. Just think of the last time you were talking to friends in a moderately loud bar all night, and woke up the next day with a hoarse voice and a sore throat. Of course, when there’s a lot going on in a video game voice chat voice chat, you’ll start speaking in a louder volume too.

To make matters worse, headphones dampen how well we hear our own voice, which signals us to speak even louder. We all know this, and yet we all do it anyway.

That’s why I switched to open back headphones like the Audio Technica ATH-ADG1X.


Whitson does a great job explaining the difference between traditional closed-back headphones and open-back here, but the gist of it is open headphones let sounds pass through the cups, which will let you hear your surroundings (and by extension, your voice) better, and encouraging you to speak at a more normal volume.


The biggest “problem” is sound leak, so those sitting next to you can hear what you’re doing. That’s bad in an open office environment, but a non-issue for most gamers. Because I don’t know about you, but, I don’t play online games next to people. (That just seems rude.)

One big benefit of wearing open-back headphone is the fact that I haven’t missed the buzzer for a delivery or a knock on my door since I started wearing them. And yes, my roommate’s baths have gone swimmingly ever since I switched too.

And all is right with the world. (Except for all of the other things, I guess.)