Introduction: Jackhammer Headphones

Picture of Jackhammer Headphones
These home-made hifi headphones work as well or better than Sony or Bose noise-cancelling headphones.
Cost: $20
Time to make: one minute.
Difficulty: none.
As seen in my article in Make Magazine volume 5
Unlike the commercial products, these block outside noise instead of cancelling it.
Listen to music or books on tape without hearing traffic noise, screaming babies, etc.
I've been making these for more than a decade. People sometimes ask "isn't it dangerous not being able to hear?" No. Talking on a cellphone shuts off most of the brain whereas listening to headphones is no more dangerous than say, being deaf.
Lots of my friends use these units and no harm has come to anyone.

Now on Know How! Click on the steps above for more details.

When you're done with this episode, check out episodes two, three, four, five, six, and

Step 1: The Three Ingredients

Picture of The Three Ingredients

1) Industrial ear-protection earmuffs from McMaster-Carr, etc.
These are Peltor model H10A, my favorite.
2) Airline or walkman headphones of the one-wire-per-ear variety.
3) A cutting tool.

Step 2: Cut Off the Head Loop

Picture of Cut Off the Head Loop

clip, cut, or chew off the plastic loop that connects the earpieces.

Step 3: Shove a Speaker Into an Earpiece

Picture of Shove a Speaker Into an Earpiece

Peltor brand earmuffs are perfect for this. there's a rim inside that holds the speaker in place.

Step 4: Speaker in Place

Picture of Speaker in Place

it looks like this.

Step 5: Finished

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repeat with the other speaker, and you're done! enjoy!

If your earlobes are the right shape to use earbuds, you can do something even easier,
which is just wear the industrial earmuffs over earbuds. My earlobes don't have that keyhole-shaped bracket thingy that retains earbuds, so they fall out.

Step 6: Comparison Testing

Picture of Comparison Testing

I was fortunate to run into these gentlemen wearing different active-cancelling headphones.

The verdict - The Jackhammer Headphones win on



wabrown14 (author)2015-08-22

That is interesting

mrmerino (author)2013-04-29

Is it okay to drill a small hole in the shell to allow an audio jack, provided it's still wrapped in insulation, or will that ruin the effect? I'm not going for total sonic isolation, just the ability to hear my music on the plane.

marianovidor (author)mrmerino2014-01-15

I have already tried that, and it won't work.

The effect you will hear from the outside is te same as on a sea shell; it's very annoying.

Although, if you are planning to make a tiny hole to fit the cable, make sure to seamlessly re-fill it. It should be perfectly tight, otherwise you are gonna end up with the annoying sea shell effect.

A sort of rubber little tube; maybe hot silicone, hot glue to seal it down? You would probably need to detach the cable from the speakers to pass it through the little hole and re-solder after that.

I never got that far on my experiment; maybe it would have solve the undersea effect problem.

brainmist (author)mrmerino2013-04-30

Hard to predict. But a snug fit may be fine.

brainmist (author)2010-12-23

Hey, some comments on safety from a professional in the field (clinical audiologist/ hearing conservationist):

First, if you block out a lot of ambient sound while, say, biking in traffic, yes, you do increase your risk of injury. It's fine to say it's just like being a deaf person, but people who are born deaf learn to pay attention to other cues, whereas people with some hearing learn to depend on hearing for peripheral alerts. (I also wouldn't recommend distracting yourself with a cell phone while in traffic.)

Second, if you use these in industrial or noisy recreational settings, don't crank the volume up too high! There's a reason you're required to wear the hearing protection, it's because loud sound will cost you your hearing. If you drill into muffs, you may change their attenuation enough to make them inadequate for the noise level you're in, and if you crank the music up too high, it becomes your noise source.

Keep in mind that while hearing protection isn't required until 90 dBA (time weighted average, so an 8 hour/ day exposure), decades of research have indicated that risk begins around 75-80 dBA, and the equivalent energy doubles every time you go up 3 dB. So if you spend your day working in noise just below OSHA's limit without hearing protection, and then come home and pound away with these, you will end up damaging your hearing. The hearing loss from noise is permanent, incurable, and comes with a bunch of other horrible symptoms like tinnitus (ringing), diplacusis (one ear hears tones differently than the other, which will make all your music sound like a heap o' suck), and hyperacusis (louder sounds make you cringe in pain, so no more concerts). Oh, and just for funsies? Too much loud sound also increases your risk of heart disease, ulcers, and colitis. Yay, don't those sound like a good time?

I'm not telling you not to enjoy your music, or even not to make these...if they get you protecting your ears while mowing the lawn, DJing, or using the miter saw, awesome. As long as you don't crank the volume too high, these should beat the heck out of nothing, and Peltor is a very solid brand. But I've spent quite a few years seeing the damage done by excessive noise, fitting hearing aids on some shockingly young people, and having to explain to them that we have no cure, the ringing doesn't go away, we can't fix the hearing, those hearing aids are the best we can do, and they're limited because the sound still goes through those damaged ears. By the time most people realize that yeah, loud sound really is destroying their hearing, they already have significant damage.

Oh, and to the guys who want these to sneak music into work: you might check on your state's worker's comp laws first. In some states, deliberate non-participation, failure to use required hearing protection, etc. can make you ineligible for compensation if/ when you develop hearing loss. The thinking seems to be that you're an adult, and if the employer has done their best, and you've sabotaged their efforts, well, kinda your own fault if you lose hearing. Which means you'll be popping the $3-8k for hearing aids every 3-4 years.

ON the plus, a lot of those hearing aids will play your music via Bluetooth.

helifino (author)brainmist2011-02-14

On the other hand, attenuating the ambient allows one to listen to their music at a lower volume level. All that's been done here merely duplicates a set of 'studio isolation headphones' like these:

brainmist (author)helifino2013-04-30

This is true, and a good reason to reach for noise-reducing headphones! Just not while you need ambient cues for safety.

mrmerino (author)brainmist2013-04-29

Well... Dammit man, I just wanted some good headphones...

Satweavers (author)brainmist2010-12-29

I'll second everything that Brainmist has said here, and throw in some of my own experience. Placing audio sources INSIDE acoustic ear muffs not only defeats the purpose of the ear muffs, but the audio source inside the muffs becomes its own source of audio assault on your ears. Eighteen years ago I made a pair of these using this type of ear muff, and for whatever reason, my ears ring 24-7. I have no doubt that playing music this way contributed to my hearing damage. The thing about progressive damage is that it is subtle and creeps up on you. As you suffer loss you compensate for it by - what? TURNING UP THE VOLUME!! Which only serves to increase the damage threshold. Personally, I think that this is a really bad way to listen to music. If you really love your music and wish to continue to enjoy it in its full dynamic range... don't build this project. Oh... and don't put great, giant thumper speakers inside your car.

kenyabob (author)Satweavers2011-06-01

Is that to say that while playing headphones at a set normal volume, it will be more hurtful to your ears if you have ear muffs on than if you were simply wearing headphones?

pmn9393 (author)2013-02-17

Not the best thing to wear in an airport these days, but i do the same kinda. I just throw them on top of ear buds. I can still use them at the range that way.

DrJekyll14795 (author)2012-07-30

I discovered the usefullness of this technique a long time ago, as I used to work as a lawn mower and was sick of not being able to hear my music over the mower and did not want to pay for an expensive pair of noise cancelling headphones.

vegatek (author)2012-02-07

Tested on 11 hour plane flight - volume was on 3 instead of 8 and everything was so quiet. Flight attendants will remind you to remove them for landing. I used dark green Peltor hearing protectors.

Thank you TimAnderson!

ajleece (author)2011-12-06

The problem with these is that they completely depend on which headphones you start with to put in them. BUT, brilliant idea though.

The Old Fart (author)2011-07-27

I have been building these for the past 15 years and I keep trying to improve them. The elements that I will be using have a freq. response of 4Hz. - 22,000Hz. The muffs cut out 65db of outside sound. My wife has to throw things at me to get my attention because I can't hear anything she says when I am wearing them. I am building 3-watt mini mono amps to install in each side. I thought of using a stereo type amp but the mono has a better response and I can use individual volume controls to better set the balance. I will be spending around $30 for the elements. Like I said before, I have been building these for years and I am always improving on them. The ones I am doing now will turn your brain into jelly and have a very low bass that thumps like a bolt loosening car stereo. Once I have all the parts I will do an instructable.

JakeBlanton (author)The Old Fart2011-11-01

65 dB? That seems a bit high... I haven't seen any hearing protectors rated that high. Do you have a link for them?

Phoghat (author)The Old Fart2011-08-29

Have you posted plans or a link to get a kit for the amps ?

chillenfresh (author)2011-10-06


photoguy7 (author)2011-09-29

Great concept! This is a good solution to a common problem where people want to listen to music in a loud environment. There are several new products on the market today, which are earplug earphones; some are very costly (over $100), but one that I have found is about $25. They are called Jamplugs, and you can get them online wherever racing headphones and racing ear buds are sold. They also have a website, and they are currently on ebayas well. I have had my Jamplugs for a while now and I love them!

SinAmos (author)2011-09-23

Excellent! haha.

kuppazki (author)2011-07-11

i did the same with my peltors but i ran the wire from the other side trough the headband and drilled a hole for 3,5mm plug in the other cup so i can plug in a 3,5mm to 3,5mm wire in and not worry about the wire getting caught in something and ripping the whole thing off my ears and getting ear damage.

nagame (author)2011-06-19

I have a pair of broken Sennheiser HD 428 (~100$) that I want to try this on. I'm hoping the speakers can be made to fit the 3M Peltor ear muffs.

I'll post the results. (and procedure if it differs)

bendog38 (author)2011-05-26

Sweet, I have had those same exact earmuffs for TEN YEARS.

The Youth Counselor (author)2011-04-30

I've been interested in trying this.

The local Lowes sells Jackhammer earmuffs that also double as a musical apparatus with built in radio and headphone functions. (The brand is Worktunes)

However after testing them out with an ipod, I discovered that even with the music at max volume they only go up to a medium/low.

Noise cancelling headphones don't work with me, their noise cancelling functions just create more noise. I think this is because I haven't reached a certain age.

ac7ss (author)2011-01-05

Easier solution, take your regular earbuds, put them on, adjust the volume FIRST, then put the hearing protection on over them.

SimoMies (author)2010-12-28

Nice! I made me one a couple of years ago to enable me to listen to megadeth while driving a bobcat ;). I made it a tad differently though. I drilled small holes to the sides of the "cups" for the wires to come out of, and in the name of DIYing, hot-glued the speakers to the mufflers.

codongolev (author)2010-12-27

I'm not sure, but I think I read somewhere that someone was using headphones in his car for a while until he checked his local laws and realized it was illegal.

just check your local laws first.

karlosjackel (author)2010-12-23

This is a great idea... I was thinking of a way to "hide" speakers into a pair of ear-defenders to use at work... Strickly not allowed to have MP3 etc.. So if they are hidden in a pair of ear defenders... who'll know? :)
Any ideas how to hide a MP3 player in there, and some sort of "fail-safe" in case anybody tries them on?

Narlo11 (author)karlosjackel2010-12-23

I did this about 8 years ago, To hide wires I tucked behind ball cap and took it down back of my neck and hid the player on belt ( I was a booth painter) under overalls.

I was still able to hear people as long as it wasnt loud. My productivity went up about 15% because I was not bored listening to air all day. They say no music due to safety but its more of a power trip and to make your job suck. IMO of coarse.

Vengence (author)karlosjackel2010-12-23

Use a bluetooth headset so there's no wires and keep your ipod/phone where ever you think is best(pocket, sleeve, etc.). Just casually press stop through your pants/sleeve if someone else wants to use them. You might need to practice being inconspicuous.

vernsolo (author)karlosjackel2010-12-23

you could fit an ipod shuffle in one side behind the foam but, you would have to figure out a way to either hide the controls in the headband part or just let it run.also, you might not have this problem but i work in an engine room and my earmuffs can get really sweaty so keep an eye on that if you hide one in there.

toelivz (author)vernsolo2010-12-23

I have a pair of earmuffs in which I hid the speakers behind the foam, ran the wires along the band, and place my ipod shuffle inside my right ear between the foam and my ear. I can make adjustments to the ipod by simply 'scratching my ear.' There is a problem with sweat, but I found wrapping the ipod in the corner of a plastic grocery bag is sufficient sweat protection.

oxdeltaxo (author)2007-04-11

Might wanna put something over the actual speaker to prevent it from hurting your ears, like cotton fabric.

Bosun Rick (author)oxdeltaxo2010-12-23

You've obviously neglected to read the instruction manual that came with your audio device..... that part about teh volume control? remember? LOL

sturmey (author)Bosun Rick2010-12-23

I think oxdeltaxo was referring to the way some speakers poke your ears and make them itch. At least that was what I got from it.

You also make a good point. It's important to read, understand and follow the safety instructions that come with all equipment, unless you're modifying it for an article on instructables.

arpruss (author)2010-12-23

Nice idea. I've been doing most of my lawn work wearing the Peltors over a pair of earbuds and listening to librivox books. Sound is good, but the earbuds are uncomfortable when combined with the Peltors. This sounds like a really nice enhancement.

augur45 (author)2010-12-23

I tried the setup in this instructable years ago and liked it so much I made some permanent headphones. I used what used to be free headsets the airIines provide. They're still a good choice and only $2.00. Even the dollar store kind work well.

I used a 3 wire coiled guitar amp cord. Use a piece of 2 conductor shielded wire or some of the cord the earphones came with to bridge from one side to the other of the ear muffs (Suguru or Tywrap to keep secure to headband).

Drill tight fitting holes in carefully selected spots to admit wires. I put ear pieces under the foam inserts in the ear muffs. A bit of thin foam, bubble wrap or a few layers of paper towel under the ear bud to prevent "rattling", then the ear bud, then the ear muff foam insert. Solder new wire directly to ear piece speaker. If you can remove the speaker from whatever it is encased in, that saves space in the ear cup.

I made a 1/4" stereo connector to 1/8" stereo plug adapter. There are ready-made ones, but they are heavy and put a lot of stress on the 1/8" plug. By having a one or two inch piece of wire between the 1/8" plug and 1/4" connector, there is considerable relief of stresses to the 1/8" plug.

Gun (sporting goods) shops sell the best ear protectors (Remington). Better than the hardware store, industrial types.

elijahlucian (author)2010-12-23

lol i did these a long time ago when i worked in an aluminum factory. SO BORING

rattyrain (author)elijahlucian2010-12-23

Don't complain because your music is SO BORING.

elijahlucian (author)rattyrain2010-12-23

i was talking about the job, dum dum

rattyrain (author)elijahlucian2010-12-23

Oh, haha.

mastermakoko (author)2010-11-13

what if my old headphone is a stereo headphone,the one that has a cable between the speakers not like dis one?

srilyk (author)mastermakoko2010-12-23

Then it depends on how long the cable is - you might be able to run the cable along the earmuff headstrap, but maybe not. If you have some soldering skills it would be possible to extend the wire if necessary, but most headphone wires are really sucky thin stuff.

But cheap headphones are cheap! ;)

T-K (author)2010-09-30

these things are perfect for DJing. love the idea behind it.

emerald0 (author)2010-08-31

thats pretty neat i think im going to make some seem cheaper to make than buying skullcandy

walthehippie (author)2010-06-26

Thanks, now I can cut the grass and listen to the podcasts.

F-17 (author)2010-06-14

I was thinking about posting this idea 2 years ago, but never had the time to, but I Had a pair of broken sony MDR-V150's and the head piece snapped but the speakers worked fine, and there was a pair of old head mufflers, so i took the speakers off the broken sony's, opened the head mufflers took the padding out, put the speakers in and put it all together. so i was like, 1 problem solved. then a month ago, some kid broke them. So i came on here to look for help and noticed this post and was like, he stole my idea. But i guess 2 great minds think alike. N E way, Nice job!!

soarin1 (author)2010-06-06

Im think of making one wireless with these and these itd be a nice wireless headphone set

ndinitz (author)2010-05-18

 it would be cool if you could tuck the wire behind the cushion so it doesnt dangle against your skin(very irritating).

CaseBoy (author)ndinitz2010-05-23

 just poke 2 holes on the cushion and thread the head phone jack (and wire)through. hope it helps.          ºjºm     ELEPHANT!!!!!!

About This Instructable



Bio: Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder of, manufacturers of "3D Printer" output ... More »
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