Sound isolating earphones are headphones which are designed to prevent unwanted sounds from entering the ear, allowing people to focus on what they are listening to without external distractions. These headphones use purely mechanical means to accomplish this, with specialized padding to insulate the ear, and a snug fit which is supposed to prevent sound from leaking through the headphones. Noise-canceling headphones, by contrast, use electronic means to filter out unwanted noise.
Many sound isolating earphones are ear buds, with designs which fit snugly into the ear canal. The earbud may also be capped with a layer of foam or other material which further insulates the ear from unwanted noises. This design has two distinct advantages. The first is that the earbud design itself greatly reduces the amount of ambient noise. The second is that the earbud can be listened to at a very low volume, reducing the risk of causing hearing damage by turning the volume up too high.
Some people feel that these earphones are superior to noise-canceling headphones. These earphones are certainly less bulky as a general rule, and sometimes the sound quality can be better, because the electronics of the headphone do not interfere with the audio. Sound isolating earphones are also specifically designed to be listened to at low volume, addressing concerns about the link between using headphones and experiencing hearing damage.
In addition to being used to listen to music, these headphones can also be used to protect the ears from hearing damage in noisy environments. Sound isolating earphones can be used by construction workers, airport crews, and other individuals who work in very loud areas. Manufacturers usually indicate the decibel level of sound which is filtered out by their headphones, allowing people to select earphones with a high filtration to protect their ears.
Many electronics stores carry earphones designed for sound isolation. It is a good idea to try a pair on before purchase, because the snug fit can be uncomfortable in some ears. Trying headphones on also gives you an idea of the sound quality available, which is a critical concern for many headphone users. Sound isolating earphones usually come with a standard headphone jack, and it is also possible to purchase adapters which can be used with devices which lack a standard audio out jack.