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What are Wireless Headphones?

By S. Mithra
Updated May 16, 2024
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Wireless headphones, sometimes called cordless headphones, are small electronic speakers that a user can wear close to his or her ears to listen to sounds provided by a device but that are not connected to the device by wires. The sounds typically are transmitted from a device, such as a digital music player or smartphone, to the headphones using radio frequency waves. Some early versions transmitted the sounds using infrared signals. The headphones can be as large as padded cups that cover the ears or as small as earbuds that fit snugly into the ear canals. Wireless headphones can receive signals up to a certain distance away from the source device — usually at least 100 feet (30.5 m).

Uses and Advantages

These headphones are convenient for use during activities when wires would get in the user's way. For example, someone who is doing aerobic exercise or basic housecleaning might be able to move his or her arms more freely without worrying about getting tangled in the headphone wires. Wireless headphones are able to be secured somewhat to the user's head or ears, such as a strap the goes over the top of the head or hooks that curl over the tops of the ears, so the user does not have to worry about them falling off during normal activities.

Many people use wireless headphones with small devices that are somewhere on their bodies, such as clipped to their belts or held in their pockets or special holders that were designed for the devices. It can be convenient at times, however, for a device to be placed somewhere nearby instead. This can allow the user to move around more freely or perform activities that might damage the device. He or she also can move to other rooms, if necessary, as long as the headphones' range is not exceeded. Wireless headphones also can be used with large source devices, such as video game consoles or stereo systems, that cannot practically be moved with the user from place to place.


Compared with wired headphones, there are a few disadvantages to using wireless versions. The main one is that they are not connected to a power supply, so they either need to be powered by batteries or need to be recharged on a regular basis. It could be inconvenient for the headphones to suddenly lose power and quit working while someone is using them.

Another, less-common disadvantage is that the headphones might lose the signal from the source device or experience interference. For example, if the user is in a different room from where the source device is, and if there is a significant barrier in between, the signal received by the headphones might be weakened. There also is a risk of other radio waves interfering with the signals that are being sent from the device to the headphones. Many wireless headphones have multiple channels that can be chosen to change the frequency of the waves being sent and received, which might help limit or eliminate this type of interference.

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Discussion Comments
By anon987174 — On Jan 31, 2015

Is privacy really a pro or a con with these headphones?

Don't they transmit an unencoded frequency over radio? Can't anyone simply eavesdrop on that transmission it using a radio receiver?

By amypollick — On Jun 23, 2012

@anon276268: Sure thing. Go to your nearest Target or like place and go to the electronics section, where they have all the radios, TVs, etc., and look for a tiny FM receiver that you can attach to your waist or upper arm while you walk. You tune it in to the frequency at the gym, and you're listening to the TV! If you're not sure what you need, tell a salesperson and they can show you what's available. They probably have the FM receivers in the stores, but you can also get an mp3 player with an FM receiver in it. They're not very expensive. I have a Sansa ScanDisk that has an FM receiver in it. It will come with earbuds, too. Good luck!

By anon276268 — On Jun 22, 2012

My gym has several TVs and they each have FM channel numbers posted on them. So if I want sound I'm guessing I need some sort of wireless FM receiver/ear buds (if I am even calling it the right thing). I'm a grandma and technology isn't my thing. Can anyone tell me what I should buy so that I can listen to TV at the gym?

By anon239158 — On Jan 07, 2012

My wife had agreed that she would use Auvio wireless digital earbuds to listen to TV at night to avoid disturbing me when I am trying to sleep. She now thinks that such use might cause cancer and is now reluctant to use the earbuds.

Can someone give a detailed scientific answer, understandable by a college-educated layman, why my wife need not be concerned about such earbud use?

By anon71189 — On Mar 17, 2010

Does a wireless headphone work with a portable dvd player

By timemaninjai — On May 25, 2009

i'm a little confused about these headphones.. so does it have a chip with saved up music?

By anon30071 — On Apr 13, 2009

I lost the USB which comes along with product no: DAP-007A.

Walk•Free Wireless Headphones

product no: DAP-007A

Please let me know if the USB is sold separately. If so, please give me the details where it is available.

If not,Is there a alternative solution to use the headphones??

Appreciate your early help.

By anon28870 — On Mar 23, 2009

Own Seinhauser R120 wireless headphones. Cannot figure out how to listen to a dvd when playing it on my all-in-one TV. Receives signal without difficulty when plugged into satellite receiver but unable to get sound when plugged into audio ports on TV. Please offer suggestion.

By dcanoli — On Jan 03, 2009

I have a quick question about wireless headphones.

We have a Rosen system in our Honda Element. Long story, short--my kids broke them a long time ago, and we have been w/o for a while now.

Do I have to specifically buy Rosen again or will any wireless headphone system work with them? I am assuming they are infrared.

By bossnme — On Dec 11, 2008

Thank you all for excellent information on many subjects. Question. Are wireless headphones digital or analog or does it matter?

By jbw713 — On Feb 11, 2008

It strikes me that all these wireless headphones mute the sound except through the headphones. Is there any headphone, wired or wireless, that allows the regular sound to be audible in the room while delivering it to the headphones as well. This would be beneficial, for example, for people who are hard of hearing.


By rr59 — On Jan 27, 2008

Say Goodbye to Wires with Wireless Headphones

The biggest reason to use wireless headphones is that they eliminate the wires that connect the headphones and the audio source. The other thing people like is privacy. Wireless headphones allow you listen to almost any audio source - whether you're listening to your stereo, a DVD player, your computer, radio or TV - without being connected by wires.

You will be impressed with the quality of the sound you get from your wireless headphone system and it is possible to turn up the volume to experience theater-like sound while people nearby will not be bothered.

The two main systems used in wireless headphones are Infrared wireless (IR) and Radio Frequency (RF) wireless. They both use a transmitter/receiver system. You connect the transmitter to your audio source and the receiver is built into the wireless headphones.

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