Infographic: The history & future of headphones


Headphones have become an iconic part of our culture, to the point you can almost identify what is important to a given person based on what kind of headphones they wear. Large over-ear headphones often indicate music lovers, while wireless earbuds are the standard for those who are more tech-forward. As headphones have evolved over time, so have their many uses.

With the harnessing of electricity a little over a century ago, inventors began to look for the various ways in which they could leverage that technology to create other, new technologies. Communications capabilities expanded greatly, and the headphones were one of the inventions that came thereafter. In 1895 in Britain the Electrophone was invented, giving people who paid a hefty subscription fee the ability to listen in on live performances broadcast over the telephone lines.

Just 15 years later, Nathaniel Baldwin invented communications headphones for the United States Navy. Baldwin made them by hand in his kitchen until the Wireless Specialty Apparatus Company bought the rights to his designs — with the caveat that they would keep the price low for all sets sold to the military.

Today these iconic devices have many different places in our culture. Noise-canceling headphones were originally invented for airline pilots, but they are now considered a necessity for business travelers worldwide. Women often wear headphones to signal they don’t want to be bothered, an attempt at preventing harassment. Some over-ear models have become a status symbol for audiophiles and cultural icons. No matter what kind of headphones you choose, it tells the outside world one thing: Do Not Disturb.

Headphones have also become a replacement of sorts for office walls in the era of open-concept offices, giving you a manufactured sense of solitude that you need to get your work done. 78% of people believe that music improves their productivity at work, and 46% of people wear headphones at work to avoid conversation.

Learn more about the evolution of headphone culture below! And be sure to check out our extensive audio reviews section with plenty of headphones for everyone.


What do you think of this infographic? What sort of earphones do you prefer? How much do you generally spend on a pair or does that even matter? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter, or Facebook. You can also comment on our MeWe page by joining the MeWe social network.

Last Updated on February 3, 2021.


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