Although not on the spectrum myself, my older brother Steve was diagnosed with autism almost 15 years ago, when he was 16. He is very high functioning and extremely intelligent, but has always struggled with sensory overload – especially when it comes to noise.
Sensory overload can be a huge issue for adults with autism wherever they sit on the spectrum, but one product that can be of immense help is headphones. In particular, active noise canceling (ANC) headphones.
So, I decided to sit down with my brother and go through the best headphones for autistic adults currently on the market.
We were both surprised with the results…
Steve didn’t always find the most expensive sets to be the best for him. Although, he does love the Sony WH1000XM3 – the most expensive set in this review.
We bought eight different sets for him to try – from top of the range to budget offerings – and with his help, I’ll do my best to give you an overview of each. I have also included two sets of sleep headphones, as Steve finds these invaluable.
Top 7 Best Headphones For Autistic Adults You Should Buy in 2021 Reviews
1 Sony WH1000XM3 Noise Cancelling Headphones – Best Overall Value Headphones for Autistic Adults
Starting with Sony’s top-rated ANC (active noise canceling) seems like a great place to start. Designed for long-lasting comfort, these are possibly the best noise canceling headphones for autistic adults on the market right now. The level at which they cancel out general background noise is spectacular, thanks to the powerful QN1 processor.
Weighing in at 8.9 ounces (254 grams), they incorporate 40mm liquid crystal polymer drivers, which produce vibrant and crystal clear audio. The fully redesigned headband and ear cups provide super soft padding, which equals comfort for hours on end.
The battery is a beast…
With up to 30 hours of playback time while Bluetooth and ANC are switched on. USB-C charging allows for a quick charge time of ten minutes for five hours of playback, which can be an absolute lifesaver.
The multi-microphone array is also one of the best available right now. Steve loves to play online games and has a large group of friends he has met through gaming. He found these headphones worked amazingly well for not only blocking out all the outside distractions but also helped him communicate clearly and easily with his friends in-game.
In terms of sound quality…
This set is easily among the best out there right now. The open, spacious soundstage gives every instrument, vocal line, and effect the room it needs to truly shine. This roominess is combined with great detail, and the low-end of the frequency is handled about as well as I have ever heard.
Overall, an amazing set of headphones. They are quite pricey, though, so stick around for some cheaper but still extremely competitive sets.
For more information, check out our in-depth Sony WH 1000XM3 review.
- Excellent active noise-canceling.
- Exceedingly comfortable.
- USB-C fast-charge capabilities.
- 40mm Liquid Crystal Polymer drivers.
- 3.5mm AUX port.
2 Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless ANC Bluetooth Headphones – Best Premium Headphones for Autistic Adults
Before we dive into more budget offerings, let’s take a quick look at the Sony WH1000XM3’s closest competitor – the Bose QuietComfort 35 II wireless ANC Bluetooth headphones.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II is, as the name might suggest, an extremely comfortable and capable set of over-ear ANC headphones. They weigh slightly less than the Sony set, tipping the scales at 8.4 ounces (240 grams).
Although Steve found them pretty comfortable overall, he did complain about his ears heating up after an hour or so of uninterrupted use. I tried them out and didn’t seem to have the same issue; take from this what you will.
Function over form…
Where Sony has gone for form over function in some design aspects, Bose has gone the opposite way. With cleverly designed hinges and easy access to buttons, Bose has made the user experience as easy as possible.
The hinges allow for the whole unit to fold down to what seems an impossibly small size, and the buttons and controls are robust with a satisfying feel to them. As a result, they are some of the best portable headphones for autistic adults.
One thing I have found that is always a certainty with Bose headphones is the magnificent sound quality. It is what they originally became famous for, and it is on full display here. The detailed, balanced audio is backed up by ANC that truly rivals Sony.
While not as long-lasting as Sony’s, it will still pump out about 22 hours of playback time with Bluetooth and ANC turned on. And much longer when plugged in. Fast-charging capabilities are also a bit less impressive than for Sony, with 15 mins of charge delivering two and a half hours of playback.
Truly a worthy competitor to Sony. So if you have the budget for one of these two, I recommend you try both out and see which is best for you.
Want to find out more? Then take a look at our in-depth Bose QuietComfort 35 II review.
- ANC and overall sound quality are superb.
- Quick and easy pairing.
- Long battery life with fast charge option.
- Function over form design.
- High accurate sound representation.
- May cause ear overheating issues.
3 Soundcore by Anker Life Q30 Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling Headphones – Best Bass Headphones for Autistic Adults
Next up, we have a more wallet-friendly option. It was not that long ago that ANC was reserved for absolutely premium sets of headphones. Not anymore!
The Soundcore by Anker Life Q30 cost less than a third of our last two offerings. But still comes packed with ANC, a super long battery life, and one of the most comfortable headphones for autistic adults we reviewed for this list.
This set is a full upgrade from 2018’s Q20, and it shows. The design has been radically overhauled. The headband and ear cups have been made chunkier and more padding has been added. The hinges are no longer flimsy, and the overall design has a much more premium feel to it.
How about the ANC?
Straight up – it’s not as good as Bose or Sony. But it’s truly not that far off either. I used these for a week commuting to and from the office and found the level of ANC to be fine during my noisy subway commute.
And the battery?
This is where the Q30 stands out. You get a whopping 40 hrs playback time with Bluetooth and ANC turned on – I got 43.5 hours out of mine between charges. Five minutes of fast-charging equates to four hours of playback.
You would think this would place the Q30 at the top of the list in terms of battery life, right?
Well, surprisingly, there is one more set that outperforms the Q30 in this category. Stick around to find out which pair of headphones that is.
Audio quality is also very good. The bass response is up there with the Sony WH1000XM3. And the soundstage, in general, is wide and full of clarity. A fantastic set of ANC headphones that won’t break the bank. Without a doubt, one of the best headphones for autistic adults.
- Class-leading battery setup.
- Great bass response.
- Overall audio is top-notch.
- 22 EQ presets.
- Steady connectivity.
- Priced to please.
- Some users may find them too bass-heavy.
4 SuperEQ S1 Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling Headphones – Best Battery Life Headphones for Autistic Adults
SuperEQ is not a brand that my brother or I had heard of before. But during our research for this list, the SuperEQ S1 popped up multiple times, so we thought we would give them a shot.
And why not?
This set of over-ear headphones have all the features we were looking for. As well as highly praised by reviewers and users alike, and they are cheaper than the Soundcore set.
In terms of design, I was pleasantly surprised by the rugged build quality and the simple button layout. I have to say that I’m not a fan of the slightly cheesy decals on each ear cup (they have a toyish quality to them). But other than this gripe, there’s not much to complain about.
Concerning comfort, the SuperEQ S1 is up there with the best on the market right now. The free swiveling ear cups remove unwanted pressure and are nicely sized. Combined with the high-quality memory foam padding and soft covering, the results are fantastic, giving you some of the best fitting headphones for autistic adults you can buy.
Okay, but what about the internal components?
Housed inside are a 40mm dynamic driver system and a built-in microphone array. These large drivers do exactly what they are made to do – accurately produce a clear and concise representation of the audio being fed in.
Sure, at this price, you cannot expect the same sound quality as higher-priced units. But the SuperEQ S1 soundstage is still surprisingly good for such a budget offering.
How good is the ANC?
Again, if you are looking for the best ANC available right now, then this may not be the set for you. But I was pleasantly surprised by how well the ANC does work with this set. The SuperEQ S1 can reduce ambient noise up to 33dB, with low-end frequencies almost totally canceled. It does struggle on handling some more high-pitched fuzz, though.
One of the best battery setups available right now…
The feature that most surprised me was the battery life. With the SuperEQ S1, you are given an almost unbelievable 45 hours of playback while Bluetooth and ANC are activated. It also only takes two hours to fully charge from zero percent. In my mind, this is one of the main selling points for the Super EQ S1 and makes this set more than worthy of its place on this list.
- 45-hour battery life.
- Very affordable.
- Well designed.
- Multi-point connection.
- Vivid soundstage.
- ANC could be stronger.
5 Bose QuietComfort Noise Cancelling Earbuds – Best ANC Earbuds for Autistic Adults
Now for something a little different. Earbuds aren’t for everybody. Steve hates them, but that doesn’t mean we should discount them. Some of his friends who are also on the spectrum swear by them. So we decided to add two sets to this list – one expensive and one more reasonably priced.
First up, we have the top-of-the-range pair – the fantastic Bose QuietComfort ANC earbuds. For the last two years, this set has consistently topped the list of the best ANC earbuds.
It’s easy to see why…
Simply put, they have the best ANC of any true wireless earbuds available today. Earbuds will never outshine over-ear sets when it comes to ANC, but the Bose QuietComfort do a valiant job nonetheless. I used these while walking busy city streets, and while they don’t eliminate all ambient noises, they do a great job of giving you that “sealed off” feeling.
To say the Bose QuietComfort has good sound would be a huge understatement. In all honesty, they provide the best soundstage I’ve ever experienced from earbuds. Punchy, wide, clear, and precise are all great adjectives when describing the Bose QuietComfort.
One of the main complaints about true wireless earbuds is the fact that they usually become uncomfortable during long usage. Not the case here, though! On multiple occasions, I had these tucked firmly in my ears for more than two hours. Once I found the correct position, I had zero comfort issues.
Can the battery life match over-ear headphones?
No, it cannot. The size of these units means that it would be impossible with today’s battery tech to come close to the 45 hours of the SuperEQ S1. The Bose QuietComfort has a max playback time of about six hours.
However, the carrying case doubles as a charging dock which can quickly recharge the earbuds fully twice. The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are great all-rounders with a fantastic soundstage and topped off with superb ANC.
- Superbly balanced.
- Best in class ANC.
- IPX4 rated.
- Long-lasting comfort.
- Designed to last.
- Substantial carrying case.
- Battery life could be better.
6 JLab Epic Air Sport ANC Earbuds True Wireless Bluetooth 5 Earbuds – Best Budget Headphones for Autistic Adults
JLab has been quietly moving up the earbud rankings for a couple of years now, and that trend looks certain to continue with the JLab Epic Air Sport ANC earbuds!
Not only are they our budget pick for ANC earbuds, but I also prefer these to the Bose set – for a couple of reasons. They cost less than a third of the Bose QuietComfort. And while being much cheaper, they do stack up in all the most important categories.
How’s the ANC?
It’s great, no two ways about it. Sure, the Bose set has a better ANC – but don’t overlook this set! The ANC is more than powerful enough for most situations. It is strong enough to combat most day-to-day distractions.
And the audio quality?
Balanced, with as much clarity as you could hope for. Sure, the soundstage is maybe not as wide as the Bose QuietComfort, but it is no slouch either. Like many budget sets of earbuds, the balance is a little more bass-heavy than some may desire, but this also helps with noise cancellation.
One feature that works particularly well for autistic adults is the over-ear hook design. This set of earbuds are supremely comfortable and almost impossible to shake loose. They have been designed with movement as a key point, so no need to worry about this set ever falling out.
The battery assembly is also a big selling point. With ANC enabled, I was able to squeeze out almost 12 hours on one charge! That’s double what the Bose set offers. The included carry case holds a whopping 55 hours of backup charge. Great stuff.
The microphone assembly is a slight letdown, with friends reporting that my voice sounded less clear and tinnier than with other sets.
Overall, I think this is the best set of earbuds for autistic adults on a budget.
For more info, check out our in-depth JLab Epic Air Sport Review.
- Long-life battery.
- Sporty and stabilized design.
- Powerful charging case.
- IP66 weather-resistance rating.
- Robust sound.
- Average mic setup.
Extra Awesome Items
Finally, let’s check out two sets of the best sleeping headband headphones for autistic adults. These can be invaluable for autistic adults looking for a solid night’s sleep.
7 SleepPhones Wireless Sleep Headphones by AcousticSheep – Best Sleep Headphones for Autistic Adults
The SleepPhones Wireless is the crowning jewel in the AcousticSheep SleepPhones range. They are currently the highest-rated SleepPhones on Amazon, and it’s easy to see why.
The best SleepPhones for side sleepers…
The super-thin, totally flat speakers are more than comfortable enough to wear while lying down or sleeping on your side. They feature built-in controls for volume, and the play/pause/skip controls freely let you handle everything without having to unlock your phone.
Next level comfort…
The SleepPhones Wireless headband is made from extremely soft, moisture-wicking stretchy fabric that regulates temperature while staying securely in place. They are available in multiple sizes (from S up to XL). The battery lasts an impressive ten hours and recharges totally in two hours flat. More than enough juice for a full night’s sleep.
What about the sound quality?
I was stunned by the quality of the sound that the SleepPhones Wireless output. For sure, they are never going to rival top-of-the-line headphones or earbuds, but the overall audio quality is not too shabby.
I bought a set of these for Steve as a Christmas present last year, and to quote him – “This is one of the best presents you have ever bought for me, why didn’t you buy them sooner?” After hearing that, I wish I had investigated SleepPhones years ago.
Check out the best deals on the SleepPhones Wireless right now. A little too pricey for you? Then check out this set of CozyPhones Over the Ear Headband Headphones. The sound is not as good as the SleepPhones Wireless, but they sell for a fraction of the price, they have a great battery assembly, and are more than comfortable enough to sleep in!
Best Headphones For Autistic Adults Buyers Guide
Loud environments can often cause severe discomfort for autistic adults. Noisy places can stifle the ability of those who suffer from autism to think clearly and communicate concisely – this is where noise-canceling headphones come into play. ANC headphones can cut out background noises almost completely, while also providing a soothing soundtrack.
This can make a huge difference to the quality of life of autistic adults. Giving them a sense of freedom, control, and relaxation that is sometimes lacking in their life. So, what are the most important factors of headphones for autistic adults?
Active Noise Cancellation
Not all noise cancellation technology is created equally, with certain brands and makers doing a much better job than others. Look for adjustable/adaptive noise cancellation. It means the headphones can tailor their output to the external environment. This means you can keep your device at the same, safe volume no matter the external conditions.
This is extremely important when considering ideal headphones for autistic adults. It can even be the make or break factor (over sound quality and ANC) when it comes to choosing the right set for an adult with autism. That’s because discomfort can be downright impossible to deal with.
Wired or Wireless
Although there are some great wired headphones available, for the most part, I would suggest Bluetooth headphones for adults with autism. It just gives you so much more freedom of movement, simple as that.
Whether you choose wired or wireless, you must remember that ANC requires a battery. They will still work when the battery is dead, but ANC will not be available. Most models come with a good battery these days, but be sure to choose a set that will satisfy your needs.
Looking for Great Headphones?
We have you covered. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Bluetooth Headphones Under $100, the Most Comfortable Headphones, the Best Headphones for Music, the Best Wireless Bluetooth Headphones, and the Best Headphones with Microphone you can buy in 2021.
Also, have a look at our detailed reviews of the Best Headphones Under $100, the Best Wireless Headphones for TV, the Best Headphones Under $20, the Best Lightweight Headphones, the Best Sony Headphones, and the Best Headphones Under $200 currently on the market.
What are the Best Headphones For Autistic Adults?
So here we are, at the end of our journey. As you can see, there are a bunch of options out there – from huge over-the-ear sets to more modest earbuds and even comfortable SleepPhones.
Finding the right headphones is different for everyone, but if my brother Steve’s preferences are anything to go by, then you should definitely check out the…
Yes, they are expensive, but they are also more than worth the extra cost, highly recommended.
Fingers crossed, this list has been a help in your search for the best headphones for autistic adults.
Until next time, happy listening.