I'm looking for an easy way to check if people around me can hear any noises coming out of my (in-ear) headphones.

Of course there's always the possibility to take the headphones off for a moment, and listen if you can hear anything while not wearing them, but since the volume and the bass isn't the same in every song, this probably isn't the way to go, if you are in public (e.g. in the train).

So has anyone got an effective and maybe more secret way to check this?

6 Answers 6


Use your smartphone to record the sounds. Start by placing the device next to your ear as you listen to music in your headphones, then gradually move the phone further from your ear to get an idea of how far the headphone's sound travels. You can play back the recording to get an idea of what other people might hear. You should also establish a control sound, like your normal speaking voice, and record that as well. That way you can reference the headphones sounds to the control sound.

pro-tip: use something other than the recording phone as the source for music in your headphones.

  • 1
    A variant to enhance this could be to speak in normal voice how far away you're holding the recording device. I.e. say "next to ear", record for a while, "next person/0.5m / 3 ft", record for a while, and so on... Thusly when you listen to the recording you can get a sense of the distance for the different parts.
    – holroy
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 19:51
  • 1
    @holroy Or you could shoot a video, which will record the audio. If the camera is pointed at your head you will see how close or far away it is. Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 21:11
  • both of these are excellent modifications to the test.
    – Madcarrots
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 20:53
  • Yes, the calibration step is important. There is no substantial evidence that smartphones microphones pick up noise of similar levels as our ears do (and that's likely to be also frequency-dependent).
    – Tony
    Commented Aug 6, 2017 at 8:16

Put your headphones on a couch arm, as if the arm of the couch was to wear them. Now play your music. You can use various substitutes for the arm.

  • 3
    The OP says "in-ear" headphones, which are not easily placed elsewhere... A normal headset though could be placed like this, and I've found the upper thigh to be a good place to simulate the head in terms of sound absorption.
    – holroy
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 19:53
  • Didn't see that. That's so cool about the thigh idea, thanks! It makes sense that it would work better too, and way more convenient!
    – user155287
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 9:59

Download a sound test music file that plays a wide enough range of frequencies from bass to top, therefore you've tested them to suit almost every song on your playlist. Take out your earphones and listen. Once you wear the earphones the volume to the surroundings is reduced as the sound waves are contained within your ear, bounced around a little and dampened.

One key factor to sound distribution would be the material of the casing, i.e. cheap plastic with a gap between the case and the plug wouldn't contain the sound very well. So a little tip would be to seal any crevices and around the case/plug to keep sound waves from escaping your ear!

I would also recommend using the rubber plugs as these will take the shape of your ear, containing the sound.


After reading many answers, almost all just say the same thing to record audio and then listen or ask someone. Also since you need a 'hack' or a 'shortcut' which should require only your assessment so,
my suggestion would be quite obvious,

  • keep your headphones at low volumes so that you are able to differentiate between music and surrounding audio (so that you may also be alert about your surroundings!)
  • at home, hit keep your headphones on the table and try with different audio levels to see if you are able to hear the sound or not.

Play your favourite music at your desired volume—maybe a bit louder—and ask a friend, or a relative if they can hear your music. You could also ask a friendly-appearing stranger if you are alone in the world.

If they can hear the music, turn the volume down until they can't hear it.

Maybe, you'll try this a couple of times until you're satisfied with the answer and the sound level.

There are lots of helpful people around who could help you with this.

  • As people have different hearing, this will not always work. When you ask my father, the music can be quite loud before he hears it, if at all. Ask me and you can not have any sound escaping before I mention it. (And not only when asked.)
    – Willeke
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 20:01
  • @Willeke This may be true for you. You'll have to ask your own question for dealing with your specific circumstances. Maybe WayneEra doesn't know you or your father and will be happy with responses from his friends, relatives, or acquaintances. Your sensitivity may need special equipment and support. I don't know of any answer that will ALWAYS work for everyone. That's setting the standard beyond any practical answer.
    – Stan
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 21:23

Well this is a very tricky question. I would also recommend if u can wear the rubber material headset as they tend to fit into to your ears perfectly. But apart from that u really wouldn't know if someone's already looking at u for the noise coming out of your headset Try using the headset at home and check if it's too noisy even when it's plugged into your ears. If the sound is still coming out, ul have to think of alternatives to fulfill ur requirement

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