%% Image selected per Image Pickin' thread: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/posts.php?discussion=1331873790052580300
%% Please do not change or remove without starting a new thread.
[[quoteright:275:[[VideoGame/TheWorldEndsWithYou http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/rsz_isolation_neku_5375_3131.png]]]]
[[caption-width-right:275:Never have. [[TemptingFate Never will.]]]]

->''"So I block out the world\\
With headphones on\\
It's the only thing I can do when I don't wanna talk to no-one."''
-->-- '''Maxeen''', "Block Out the World"

In real life, one of the easiest ways to let people know that you want to be left alone is to wear a pair of headphones. Either you won't be able to hear other people, or they will assume that you can't hear them. This carries over into fiction. It is an easy way to show that a character is trying to drown out reality and other people. This trope is either used symbolically, where the headphones are a side-effect of their isolation, or deliberately when the character does this on purpose.

The ScaryShinyGlasses can often do this too, in a creepier fashion.

It's also possible to use this impression to gather information: If people assume you can't hear or aren't paying attention, they might talk freely behind your back, and if you don't actually have the headphones playing any sound, you should be able to hear them with just a little muffling. On the negative side, using them can also put you at risk of being mugged or worse, due to the music drowning out the sound of the approach of an opportunistic criminal. This is especially true of those who use them while exercising, such as [[JoggersFindDeath joggers]].

Possibly moving towards DiscreditedTrope territory, now that traditional bulky headphones are being replaced with tiny iTunes-style earbuds. However, some works may deliberately invoke this trope by having a character choose large headphones over earbuds precisely for this reason.

Wearing headphones doesn't tune everything out in real life -- smells, the floor rumbling, etc. -- but [[TropesAreTools can be used this way]] in fiction for the RuleOfFunny.

Compare IgnoringBySinging (the character deliberately makes noise and/or covers his ears to avoid listening) and FakeStatic (the character pretends to be unable to hear or understand a transmission).



[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* ''Anime/NeonGenesisEvangelion'': Shinji Ikari is often seen wearing headphones, listening to music on his SDAT player, when he wants to block out reality.
* Mao from ''Anime/CodeGeass'' does this to block out the influx of thoughts from his telepathy. [[StalkerWithACrush It winds up having consequences though.]]
* In ''Manga/KodomoNoOmocha'', lone wolf Hayama is initially always seen with his headphones, ignoring the world around him.
* Number Three of the Empty Seven in ''Anime/AfroSamurai'' wears headphones throughout the entire series, and sits with his back to the rest of the group when they're all shown together. He serves Afro food and tea when he arrives at their lair [[spoiler:and is the only one to survive, as he knew they'd fail and wanted no part of it.]]
* Accelerator from ''LightNovel/ACertainMagicalIndex'' inverts this after he gets a bullet in his head. The ear phones he wears are basically part of psychic life support, hooking him up with about [[ItMakesSenseInContext 10.000 middle school girls]]. Of course, because he got the injury during his HeelFaceTurn, he also started socializing a bit more. His powers already enabled him to block out all sounds around him however, something he still does on a regular basis.
* Shani, one of the three [[FanNickname Druggies]] in ''Anime/MobileSuitGundamSEED'', listens to music whenever he's off-duty; his teammates Orga and Clotho engage in similarly solitary activities (reading and playing video games respectively).
* The manga ''Hikikomori Headphone Girl'' (forerunner of ''Manga/SevenBillionNeedles'') is ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin.
* Yoh Asakura from ''Manga/ShamanKing'', as he has stated how being a Shaman isolates him from the world and a flashback emphasized the symbolism of his headphones. But they're also used just as often as simply [[GogglesDoNothing an accessory]] and [[RuleOfCool fashion statement]].
* Justin Law from ''Manga/SoulEater'' constantly wears earphones, which annoys his colleagues and confuses his boss - who wears a mask over his face, meaning that Justin cannot lip-read Shinigami's speech like he does for everyone else. [[spoiler:Subverted after his FaceHeelTurn: the series favors interaction and unity so, according to the trope, removal of earphones should indicate something positive. Justin instead removes his earphones only to [[LovesTheSoundOfScreaming hear]] Kid screaming as Gopher beats him up.]]
* Toru of ''Manga/IrisZero'' deliberately invokes this trope as part of his "low exposure" policy. Since [[TeamNormal he doesn't have an eye-related power]] like the rest of the students, he tries to avoid standing out as much as possible to [[AllOfTheOtherReindeer avoid bullying]]. Using headphones and holding a book in front of him are two ways he does that.
* ''Manga/NoMatterHowILookAtItItsYouGuysFaultImNotPopular'' has Tomoko often shown using BlandNameProduct earphones and some official art shows her with headphones on, fitting with her antisocial, awkward and isolated nature.
* Rika Nonaka/Makino Ruki from ''Anime/DigimonTamers'' is often seen wearing headphones, especially in earlier episodes.
* Kururu of ''Manga/SgtFrog'' wears headphones, which double as a sound-based weapon in a pinch. He's also a dislikable guy.
* Invoked in the ''Detectives' Koshien'' arc in ''Manga/DetectiveConan''. [[OneSceneWonder Natsuki]] wore huge earphones in the beginning, which confused the others and made them think she didn't want to speak too much to them. [[spoiler:Although, she actually used them to hide her pierced ears, which would let others know she wasn't a high schooler anymore (Japanese schools are very strict about dress codes and often prohibit the use of earrings). She later hid them with her hair when she couldn't use the 'phones anymore.]]
* Inverted with the pair Cerberus wears in ''Manga/TodaysCerberus.'' Her headphones allow [[SharingABody her current personality to communicate with the other two]] and also helps identify them. Kuro's headphones are red with black details. Shirogane's are black with green details that have black "long dog ears" that stick straight up. Roze's are white, with blue details and white "short dog ears" on the side.
* In ''Anime/RanpoKitanGameOfLaplace'', played straight with past!Namikoshi, who used to wear red headphones and listened to music from them while working on Dark Star, but averted in the present day. He switched it out for a BadassLongcoat.
* Played with in ''Manga/TokyoGhoul'' and its sequel, '':Re''.
** In the original series, the outgoing Hide Nagachika frequently wears headphones around his neck. When he is seen wearing them over his ears, it's either to illustrate his eccentric personality or his loneliness when Kaneki has been avoiding him. Considering his ObfuscatingStupidity and tendency to eavesdrop on people, the headphones [[FridgeBrilliance likely also]] aid in making people not take him seriously.
** In the sequel, the sullen Kuki Urie frequently wears earbuds to avoid dealing with others. He's seen wearing them less and less after the major TimeSkip, as part of his development.

[[folder:Comic Strips]]
* ''ComicStrip/{{Zits}}'':
** Used as a gag, where Jeremy will use headphones to avoid listening to his annoying mother to a point were he once wore three pairs of headphones (each over top the other) to block out her nonsensical dialogue.
** Subverted in one strip where the dad starts [[NotListeningToMeAreYou saying all sorts of outlandish things]] to the be-headphoned Jeremy, including a promise of new computer equipment. After a short pause, Jeremy responds to everything Dad just said.
* In one ''ComicStrip/FoxTrot'' strip, the kids give Andy a Walkman and then proceed to ask her questions like "Tell me if it's not alright for me to blow off my homework tonight" while she is plugged in.
* Living with his [[NoIndoorVoice loud]] cousin Max, Andy of ''ComicStrip/StoneSoup'' is asked by his uncle Wally how such a life can be peaceful. Naturally, Andy gives the headphone answer.
* In ''ComicStrip/PearlsBeforeSwine'', Rat has been known to wear headphones just so that he can avoid replying to other people.
* Toggle from ''ComicStrip/{{Doonesbury}}'' wore his earbuds under his helmet while in Iraq. He had modified his so that the music would cut out whenever someone spoke over the radio so that he could hear communications but they still prevented him from hearing his sergeant yell about the IED in the road so he failed to swerve out of the way and was subsequently severely injured.

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* ''Fanfic/AdviceAndTrust'': Shinji used his headphones the whole time to block reality and run from it, but after getting together with Asuka, he hardly touches them. The first line in the prologue mentions briefly that Shinji's SDAT is sitting on his desk, gathering dust. The last line (after the reveal that Shinji and Asuka have a SecretRelationship) points out his tape player has been gathering dust because it has not been touched in two months, since "retreat and escape from the world were no longer needed."
* In ''Burnt'' an upset mostly-deaf Harry closed his eyes so he couldn't read Snape's lips and Snape equated it with putting on headphones and turning your back on someone.
* ''Fanfic/OnceMoreWithFeeling'': In the original timeline, Shinji secluded himself in his room and put his headphones on to isolate whenever he got depressed. Back in the past, he realizes that behavior was a self-destructive and dumb waste of time, so he is trying to quit the habit (and he is listening to a different kind of music, too).
* In episode 23 of ''Fanfic/ChildrenOfAnElderGod'', Shinji resorts to his headphones to try to forget about his troubles:
-->He laid in bed, music in his ears from his headphones and tried to zone out, but his mind kept spiraling back to Asuka.
* In ''Fanfic/NeonGenesisEvangelionGenocide'', Shinji admits freely that he doesn't like much watching TV and prefers his headphones because they let him cut the world off.
-->He was not much for the boob-tube, preferring instead the quiet solitude of his S-DAT, but it seemed wrong to walk away from the moment.
* Invoked by Bob in ''Fanfic/TheNextFrontier'', who is strongly implied to have bought a set of quite expensive headphones specifically so he could tune Jeb and Bill out whenever their VitriolicBestBuds routine started to get on his nerves.
* Played for laughs in ''Fanfic/HopToIt'' when Jack follows Nino as Rabbit and hops on rooftops in hopes of him noticing her from the street. Not only does he fail to see her (until she drops down to street level in front of him), he doesn't notice the screaming from the people around him who do. Rabbit even notes that she can hear his music from the roof with her super hearing and wonders how he hasn't deafened himself.

[[folder:Films -- Animation]]
* In ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyEquestriaGirlsRainbowRocks'', DJ-Pon-3 (a.k.a. Vinyl Scratch) is always wearing her headphones. In the background of "Battle of the Bands", while the Dazzlings use their music to brainwash the student body, she's seen [[FunnyBackgroundEvent bouncing to her own music, completely unaffected]]. [[spoiler:This means later she can free the Rainbooms and help them in the final battle.]] When Principal Celestia confiscates the headphones in the prequel short "Music to My Ears", she just pulls out a pair of earbuds and starts the music all over again.

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* ''Film/{{Spaceballs}}'': When Vespa is being scolded by Dot for getting cold feet at her wedding, she doesn't hear anything Dot says because of her headphones (which are made to look like Princess Leia's bun hairstyle).
* Might be the point of the ActionGirl in ''Film/BladeTrinity'' listening to her iPod while slaying vampires. Either that or ProductPlacement (it certainly doesn't seem to hurt her performance in battle any).
* In 1998 ''Film/{{Godzilla|1998}}'', the headphone guy didn't even feel the ground shaking.
* In ''Film/TheLostWorldJurassicPark'' (the film, not the book), a redshirt makes the mistake of [[TooDumbToLive wandering off]] and only calling to someone else to make sure they don't leave without him. Unfortunately, said person was listening to music on his headphones and didn't hear him, and the redshirt [[spoiler:ends up devoured by [[FanNickname compies]]]]. Later in the movie, it apparently takes throwing a stone at his head to get his attention.
* Charlie Fineman in ''Film/ReignOverMe''.
* In ''Film/BenX'' the titular Ben, an autist, uses an iPod with loud music to drown out loud noises in the street and to keep people in the street and on the bus from talking to him.
* In ''The Incredible Shrinking Woman'', the protagonist's daughter is unable to hear her mother screaming because she is wearing headphones -- although, somehow, she is still able to hear the phone ringing. (TruthInTelevision: for some reason, while you can't hear voices through headphones, telephones go right through them.)
* ''Film/TrueLies'': The music-loving janitor is unaware of the conflict outside until a Harrier Jet crashes through the window.
* Danny Pennington, the troubled teen from ''Film/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles1990''.
-->'''Charles Pennington:''' See? That's what he does when he wants to ignore me. Sticks his head in those things.
* Another Schwarzenegger example: In ''Film/TheTerminator'', one of the Terminator's victims is rocking out on headphones making an after-nookie snack while her lover is brutally beaten to death in the next room.
%%* Happened in ''Film/TheSeeker''.
* An InvokedTrope in the film adaptation of the Creator/StephenKing short story ''Battleground''. The [[NoNameGiven unnamed]] hitman wears headphones when traveling to and from his hit so people will not engage him in conversation, which might make them remember him. However the symbolic version also applies, as the hitman is a loner who doesn't even talk to anyone the entire movie.
* ''Film/{{Tremors}}''. The little girl on the pogo stick-thingy can't hear their shouted warnings because she's wearing headphones, so someone has to run out and grab her before she's grabbed by the Graboids.
* In ''Film/LayerCake'', an assassin who works for the gangsters from OopNorth is always wearing headphones, which makes him seem fairly sinister. Then, it's revealed that he wears them because he's studying French for a class, and has a hilariously bad command of the language.
* In ''Film/FaceOff'' the mother of Castor Troy's son puts a pair of headphones playing "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" on him so he won't hear the massive gun battle about to happen between Castor's old gang and the invading FBI agents.
* In Part 1 of ''Film/HarryPotterAndTheDeathlyHallows'', Harry, Hermione and Ron escape to a cafe. Then two Death Eaters walk into the cafe, a fight ensues; all the while the hostess is in a back room making coffee with headphones on, completely oblivious to the fight.
* In ''Film/MarsAttacks'', the grandmother of Lukas Haas' character is totally unaware of the massacre happening behind her as she is listening to Slim Whitman through headphones. She doesn't even notice when the Martians wheel in a ''{{BFG}}'' and point it at the back of her head.
* In ''Film/{{Super 8}}'', a gas station attendant is so busy rocking out to Blondie on his brand new Walkman that he doesn't hear a monster attack.
* In ''Film/TheAmazingSpiderMan'', Creator/StanLee makes his requisite [[CreatorCameo cameo appearance]] as a school librarian listening to classical music on his headphones, oblivious to [[spoiler: the Lizard-v-Spider-Man fight destroying the library right behind him. And if it weren't for Spidey's timely intervening, his head would've been busted by a piece of debris.]]
** Which rather puts the kibosh on the fan-theory that Lee is actually playing Uatu TheWatcher in all these cameo appearances...
* In ''Film/TheInternship'', one guy wears conspicuous headphones so that people don't bother him.
* In ''Film/CitySlickers'', the lone female in the group is off listening to her headphones and therefore completely oblivious to the stampede going on behind her. It's already a stretch to think that the music could be loud enough to drown out a stampede, did it make her completely oblivious to the massive vibrations that would be set off as well?
* In ''Film/HaroldAndKumarEscapeFromGuantanamoBay'', [[BigBad Agent Fox]] on his seat listening to ''Danger Zone'' while the titular duo break free from captivity and attempt to jump off the plane.
* Mariko wears them in ''Film/TheWolverine''... while Logan is battling Yakuza above her in a TraintopBattle. At one point a Yakuza thug clinging to the roof sees her through a (locked) skylight and roars in impotent rage, which of course she doesn't hear.
* In ''Film/GrossePointeBlank'', a convenience store clerk doesn't notice the blazing gunfight going on behind him because he's listening to Motorhead on headphones and playing an arcade game.
* In ''Film/TheHangoverPartIII'', Alan Garner doesn't notice his father dying of a heart attack and his mother and housekeeper tending to him and screaming for help because he was listening to music on headphones and relaxing.
* In ''Film/TheHost'', when the monster first attacks, we see a girl playing with a bobby pin listening to orchestral music with headphones completely oblivious to the mayhem around her. When someone runs by her, she turns around and gets taken away by the monster.
* ''Film/{{Intruder}}'' has Joe, the guy who works meat prep, getting killed when his Walkman drowns out the sound of the killer's approach.
* Used as a ChekhovsGag in ''Film/ThreeBillboardsOutsideEbbingMissouri''. The second time it comes up, Dixon's headphones cause him not to notice [[spoiler:the police station he's in being firebombed]].
* Near the end of ''Film/GetOut2017'', Rose is peacefully listening to music and using her laptop, causing her to nearly [[spoiler:miss the epic violence breaking out in the living room]].

* Creator/ShelSilverstein's [[http://poemsbyshelsilverstein.blogspot.com/2009/01/poem-by-shel-silverstein-pg-161.html ''Headphone Harold'']].
* Challenged openly in an anecdote by Penn Jillette entitled "Being Morally Opposed To The Walkman Carries With It Certain Responsibilities" (it appears in ''Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends'').
-->'''Penn:''' I'll make a deal with you--we'll take our headphones off and listen to you, but you better have something to say. ... When each of us walked onto the elevator, we smiled at one another, and you just rolled your fuckin' eyes.
* ''The Fourth Protocol'' by Creator/FrederickForsyth. One of the MI5 Watchers is wearing headphones while tailing a suspect, for exactly this reason.
* Subverted in ''The Wonder Spot'' when the main character realizes that a teenager of her acquaintance is wearing headphones but not listening to anything; she wonders about the possible reasons, such as wanting to be left alone, and then the girl tells her she's using them as a headband.
* In the book ''Vibes'', the main character avoids listening to others or being forced to work in groups at school by putting on her headphones and listening to opera music very loudly.
* At one point in ''Literature/TheDresdenFiles'', Molly wears earbuds while maintaining surveillance in a park. She doesn't have any music playing -- in fact, as a wizard, she'd short-circuit any music-player she tried to use -- but it makes her look inconspicuous and discourages passersby from approaching and distracting her.
* Teremy Itsubishi from ''Literature/StrengthAndJustice: Side: Justice'' wears these all the time to discourage people from approaching him, since he's very much a loner and prefers to stick to himself. Unfortunately ''everyone'' doesn't get the hint.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* In the study hall episode of ''Series/NedsDeclassifiedSchoolSurvivalGuide'', one of Ned's tips is that a good way to prevent people from distracting you is to wear headphones. After [[MotorMouth Martin]] leaves upon seeing the headphones, Ned gleefully shows the audience that he doesn't even have them plugged into anything.
* Important in ''Het Huis Anubis and de Vijf van het Magische Zwaard'' (''The House of Anubis and the Five of the Magical Sword''). All five youngsters in the House are tied to one of the senses. Raphael is bound to hearing, which explains him wearing headphones ALL the time; sound is far to loud for him if he doesn't wear them.
* Frequently invoked in GameShows, when one contestant in some way has to be isolated from another contestant's gameplay, such as in early series of ''Series/TheKryptonFactor'', or some audio cue such as in [[Series/WhoseLineIsItAnyway Fast And Loose's]] "Interpretive Dance" round.
* Used by Elena's brother in ''Series/TheVampireDiaries''
* In an episode of ''Series/TwoAndAHalfMen'' Charlie assumes that Jake cannot hear him speaking while he is wearing headphones. Jake later reveals that there is actually no music playing so he can hear people say things they wouldn't say if they knew he was listening.
* An episode of ''Series/{{CSI}}'' had a mass murder in a coffee shop. One of the victims was a teenager listening to speed metal; Nick remarked, "He probably didn't know what's going on until he was shot."
* Invoked in an early episode of ''Series/{{Lost}}'', Hugo wearing headphones on the island. Charlie comes up and asks him how he kept a walkman working there. Turns out the headphones aren't plugged in, Hugo just wanted to be left alone.
** Several seasons later, Hugo is having a very bizarre/possibly imaginary conversation in the back of a taxi. Just when you wonder why the driver isn't reacting to all this, a shot shows him with headphones, bobbing obliviously along to music.
* An episode of ''Series/FullHouse'' featured Joey listening to self-help tapes, to the point of ignoring all outside distraction. This combined with trying to pave the driveway wound up getting Joey's feet stuck in cement. The only way to snap Joey out of it was to interrupt his mantras with [[InsultedAwake an insult]].
* In ''Series/{{Heroes}},'' a deaf character typically wears headphones to avoid having to talk to people who assume she can hear.
** And another character with hypersensitive hearing listens to loud, obnoxious music on headphones to drown out the constant noise of everyday life.
* In ''Series/{{Primeval}}'', pretty much every other episode has a bit where a monster creeps up on someone with headphones in.
* On ''Series/OneLifeToLive'', as Nora stands at the end of the docks, blissfully listening to "Earth Angel" on headphones, she is completely unaware that her vengeful former client Todd Manning (who was convicted of rape thanks to her sabotaging the case when she realized he was guilty) is *slowly* creeping up behind her. Oddly enough, she has no trouble hearing the delivery boy who calls to her, even though he's much farther away.
* Used in the KoreanDrama ''Series/CanYouHearMyHeart'' by Cha Dong Joo to hide the fact that he's deaf.
* PlayedForLaughs in ''Series/HowIMetYourMother''. Ted and Robin were dating, and had their first fight. In simultaneous mirroing scenes, both hurry to their respective friends to talk about it. In Robin's take, Lily is with her earphones on, so she puts them off and ask "Oh no. What happened?" Cut to Ted's side, he said about the fight, then Barney asks derisively "Oh, no~. What happened?" Then puts earphones on.
* Toby misses his entire workforce running out in an episode of ''Series/PowerRangersMysticForce'' because he's wearing headphones. Mind you, he doesn't notice much anyway...
* In one episode of ''Series/HawaiiFive0'', Kono is fighting one of the suspects in the kidnap victim's home, while the victim's son sits in the next room listening to his iPod.
* ''Series/{{Gotham}}'': In "The Fearsome Dr. Crane", a cleaner wearing headphones fails to notice a man being outside the window behind her back.
* ''Series/PersonOfInterest''. In "Legacy" the headphone-wearing VictimOfTheWeek doesn't notice a hitman walk up behind her and aim a pistol at her head, nor the noisy hand-to-hand combat [[BigDamnHeroes when Reese intervenes]].
* ''Series/Daredevil2015'': In "Dogs to a Gunfight," a Dogs of Hell gang member is shown power-washing a semi truck the gang just hijacked while listening to "[[SuspiciouslyAproposMusic The Price of Punishment]]" on his headphones. This renders him oblivious to Frank Castle entering and killing everyone else in the room until one of the bodies lands at his feet. To boot, Castle then proceeds to kill him, then use the guy's body as bait for the ESU team while he tries to make another attempt on Grotto.
* PlayedForLaughs in ''Series/{{Lucifer}}'' when Maze secretly turns on her headphones and [[NotListeningToMeAreYou nods sympathetically as her roommate vents about her recent troubles]], but all Maze can hear is loud rock music.
* In first episode of season 2 of ''Series/StrangerThings'', one scientist staffing the evil facility is apparently stupid enough to play music on his headphones loudly enough to drown out the sounds of the instruments telling them something bad is happening.
* In last episode of season 1 of ''Series/{{Westworld}}'', a technician puts in noise cancelling earphones which keep him oblivious of the FullFrontalAssault happening in the room behind him. At least until the glass pane breaks.
* In the season two premier of ''Series/BrooklynNineNine'', we find out that Captain Holt had to ban headphones from the precinct after "The Gina Incident." We're then shown a flashback of Gina obliviously listening to music and dancing as a brawl between a criminal and a couple cops goes on ''right behind her'' in the middle of the bull pen.

* The page quote comes from Maxeen's song "Block Out The World", which is the very trope in song form.
* "Water and Headphones", by The Ropes, deals with this. "''All I need is, water and headphones, those things are my stables, what I live and breathe,''" and, "''What you might call solitude, is something I look forward to,''" sums it up pretty well.
* Mentioned in Music/ReginaSpektor's song ''Eet''. ''( You ease in your headphones / to drown out your mind )''
* In the video for [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8txk6EhYZKA "Glukoza's Schweine,"]] the Pig General wearing headphones steps off to the side, and doesn't realise the convoy he was leading has been ambushed until they're almost all dead.
* The subject of "Headphones" by Music/JarsOfClay.
* Also of "Headphones" by Music/{{Bjork}}.
* And "Headphones" by Music/LittleBoots.
* As well as "Hiding in my Headphones" by Music/{{Reel Big Fish}}.
* The song "Fugazi" from 1984 by Music/{{Marillion}}: "''Sheathed within the Walkman wear the halo of distortion, aural contraceptive aborting pregnant conversation''".
* The song "Can I Run?" from Hungry for Stink by Music/{{L7}}: "''I wear my headphones so I can't hear what you say.''"
* Inverted by Music/{{September}}'s "Party In My Head" in which the narrator is wearing the headphones, but isn't seeking isolation - she wants people to come close so that they can hear what's playing as well.
* Also inverted with "Headphones" by Music/BrittNicole, where the singer is encouraging lonely people to put on headphones to help them feel loved.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* Invoked by many professional and semi-professional TabletopGame/{{poker}} players; since all the communication necessary to play the game can be done by the physical movement of cards and chips, they wear headphones in order to tune out distractions and better concentrate on the game. The etiquette behind this is a point of contention, with many older players finding it [[BerserkButton annoying and rude]].

[[folder:Video Games]]
* An enemy {{Mook}} near the beginning of ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid2'' was for some reason listening to loud music on headphones, making it much easier to sneak up on him in what would have otherwise been a tricky narrow hallway. More amusingly, near the ending, you find another Mook with a loud iPod... he's the last one in the facility, since the loudspeakers have been blaring "ThisIsNotADrill" for the past 20 minutes, warning everybody that the whole place is about to crumble.
* Neku, the main character of ''VideoGame/TheWorldEndsWithYou'' wears headphones and is very much a loner at the start of the game. While he does keep his headphones, as the game progresses he "uses" them less and less to block out the people around him. It's a sign that he's opening up to the people he meets. [[spoiler: At the end of the ending cinema, he throws down his headphones, showing he's accepting the world (and affirming the title of the game).]]
* Achmed Khan from ''VideoGame/BackyardSports'' can not hear much because he always has his headphones on. [[{{Flanderization}} This gets worse later]].
* The ''[[Franchise/ShinMegamiTenseiPersona Persona]]'' games made under Katsura Hashino's direction all have at least one character that invokes this trope:
** The hero of ''VideoGame/Persona3'' wears his headphones and mp3 player throughout the game, and the opening cinema establishes his detachment from the world around him. His SpiritAdvisor soon appears and teases him about it, saying "you can't plug your ears and cover your eyes", and he gradually develops friendships and emotional connections throughout the course of the game. He still keeps the headphones around his neck all the time, though.
** Yosuke Hanamura from ''VideoGame/Persona4'' does this as well. Granted, he wears his headphones around his neck outside of battle even while he's opening up and being friendly to people, but he really does hate living in a small town.
** Then there is Futaba Sakura from ''VideoGame/Persona5''. She's introduced as a {{Hikikomori}} who absolutely freezes up in most social situations, and it's implied she wears them to [[spoiler:drown out her auditory hallucinations]]. That said, she still keeps the headphones even after she begins to open up to others.
* ''VideoGame/{{Killer7}}'''s Con Smith wears them all the time despite being a [[DisabilitySuperpower blind gunman]].
** [[spoiler:Later, it turns out his inattentiveness as a result of his headphones was the reason he was easily killed by Emir.]]
* One cutscene in ''VideoGame/SaintsRow2'' involves Sons of Samedi leaders The General and Mr. Sunshine storming into a Scratch That music store and holding the place up so they can gather some info regarding an attack on their drug farm. However, everybody in the store is rocking out with headphones at music sample booths, completely oblivious to the fact that a notoriously ruthless street gang is in the building. So Mr. Sunshine kills one of them to gain attention.
** ''VideoGame/SaintsRowIV'' has one of the terrorist enemies in the prologue mission listening to a radio and rocking out. As such, he can't hear that the room is being breached by the Saints.
* ''Franchise/AceAttorney''
** In the third game, Dahlia Hawthorne claims to have not heard Doug Swallow being killed by an electric spark because she was wearing headphones (because she was afraid of lightning, supposedly). [[spoiler:Actually, she killed Doug.]]
** In ''Dual Destinies'', Athena was much more introverted during her childhood and wore heavy headphones whenever she went out in public. {{Justified}} since the headphones [[spoiler:were made to protect her from having a SensoryOverload from her special sense of hearing detecting everyone's emotions at once]].
* ''VisualNovel/TokimekiMemorial 4'' has IceQueen Rhythmy Kyono, who wears a set of headphones at all times. This is actually because she has an extremely acute hearing, and wearing them helps her not being aggravated by surrounding sounds; however, her wearing those headphones, along with her cold demeanor and her reluctance at talking, intimidates and drives people away from her.
* In ''VideoGame/GhostTrick'', Kamila is wearing headphones in Chapter 2 when Missile gets shot. When Sissel rewinds time to save him, he is effectively told that once Kamila puts the headphones on the level will be unwinnable, as the goal is to make sure she and Missile are hidden before Tengo enters.
* In the trailer for ''VideoGame/DeadIsland2'', the jogger has his ipod set to max volume, so he is completely oblivious to the ZombieApocalypse behind him as he jogs to Pigeon John's "The Bomb". [[spoiler:Since he was already bitten at some point, he quickly becomes part of the ZombieApocalypse.]]
* Annaliese's EstablishingCharacterMoment in ''VisualNovel/MissingStars'' has her sitting at her desk during class, staring out the window and listening to music. Erik considers her unapproachable but ends up talking to her anyway. Annaliese uses earbuds instead of headphones, however the trope is used the same way.
* In ''VideoGame/TheDarksideDetective'', when [=McQueen=] interviews the passengers of a subway train that was temporarily trapped in the DarkWorld, he is unable to attract the attention of a teenaged commuter wearing headphones. [=McQueen=] speculates that he may not even have noticed the train's unscheduled detour.

[[folder:Web Animation]]
* In the first episode of ''WebAnimation/{{RWBY}}'', Ruby Rose goes to a shop and reads a magazine in the corner while wearing headphones. Because of this, she does not notice that the shop is being robbed until [[MuggingTheMonster one of the mobsters threatens her]].

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* Francis pretended to be unable to hear with headphones on in [[http://www.pvponline.com/comic/2004/04/14/april-14-2004 this]] ''Webcomic/PvP'' strip.
* ''WebComic/DangerouslyChloe'': [[TheGrimReaper Alchemy]] failed to notice Teddy was approaching her, because she'd gotten so into her groove, that [[spoiler: [[http://www.dangerouslychloe.com/strips-dc/like_an_idiot she started twerking]]]]. Of course, once she realized she'd been caught in the act, [[Funny/DangerouslyChloe she flew off in embarrassment.]]
* Ma-ri of ''Webcomic/OrangeMarmalade'' wore headphones constantly and was a self-imposed loner, to keep herself from forming bonds that always end badly for her because she's a vampire living in a society that openly despises her species. [[spoiler: They are destroyed around the time she was able to find the very first human to accept her for what she was.]]

[[folder:Web Original]]
* In ''Grimmer Reaper'', Lucas is always listening to loud music on his headphones. While not explicitly a loner, he does have a general fear of other people that the headphones seem to help with. This is a bit of a problem, though, since he can't hear what people are saying to him very well unless he can read their lips, which requires them to be facing him. The fact that he's trained himself to read lips means he's been wearing his headphones for a long time, possibly most of his life, and is unwilling to take them off. This becomes problematic when he starts seeing a blind girl, who generally does not look at him when speaking. She questions him about it, and it is eventually revealed that [[spoiler:Lucas has a severe stutter, but listening to music on headphones hides it and allows him to talk normally. It is similar to how some people with a stutter speak fine on the phone, only stuttering when looking at the person they are talking to]]. During the final battle, when Lucas's [[spoiler:love interest]] is kidnapped and he suicidally goes one-on-one against the [[AGodAmI god-like]] BigBad, he takes off his headphones and abandons them on the ground before [[IncrediblyLamePun jumping]] in, his [[spoiler:stutter]] revealed to the other characters for the first time the moment he opens his mouth to speak. Luckily he [[spoiler:[[IAmNotLeftHanded unlocks a higher level of his power]]]] in time to [[spoiler:not make the fight a full suicide]].
* WebVideo/{{Paw|Dugan}} the Music Guy from Website/ThatGuyWithTheGlasses is never seen without his large headphones. {{Lampshaded}} by Angry Joe in the "Hotel Awesome" videos.
** Lampshade aside, Paw never actually displays the trope and can communicate fine, even when wearing the headphones.
* Taken to exrtemes in [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONctoXikyMw CollegeHumor]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* In ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'', Otto is shown listening to music at a store kiosk, and complains that all these new bands are just ripping off Judas Priest. He then takes off the headphones to reveal he still has his own headphones on underneath, plugged into a Walkman with a Judas Priest cassette in it.
* In ''WesternAnimation/FamilyGuy'' "Screwed the Pooch", a one off gag is played when Brian answered questions to Peter about the family and answered who Meg's real father is. It then cuts to Meg listening to headphones.
* In the ''WesternAnimation/KimPossible'' episode "Rappin' Drakken", Shego listened to music on her headphones to tune out Drakken's latest monologue. She may have regretted it later, since it apparently helped inspire his plan to become a singing star to promote his [[MayContainEvil mind-control shampoo]].
** In another episode, Shego is tutoring [[MinionWithAnFInEvil Señor Senior Junior]] in proper villainy, and catches him listening to headphones. She crushes his music player to get his attention.
* In part one of the ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheAnimatedSeries'' two-parter ''Feat of Clay'', Roland Daggett's [[TheDragon Dragon]] Raymond Bell wears headphones that he keeps tuned into police bands to stay one step ahead of the cops. During one scene, Bell has them on when Daggett is trying to talk to him, but can't hear him.
-->'''Daggett:''' Germs, take off his headphones.
* In the ''WesternAnimation/BatmanBeyond'' episode "Untouchable", a maintenance woman was oblivious to a battle between Batman and the Repeller because of her headphones.
* In the ''WesternAnimation/LiloAndStitchTheSeries'' episode "Holio", Mrs. Edmonds (Mertle's mother) vacuums her house while dancing way to music on her portable cassette player with her eyes closed, not noticing ''[[UnrealisticBlackHole the black hole directly above her that sucked up her entire house]]''.
* ''WesternAnimation/PhineasAndFerb'':
** In the episode "Mommy, Can You Hear Me?", Linda (the mother) is wearing headphones while working in the garden, and quite fails to notice Phineas and Ferb building their [[OnceAnEpisode big project of the day]] ''right behind her''.
** In ''WesternAnimation/PhineasAndFerbMissionMarvel'', Linda (still the mother) is listening to a guided tour of the city on her headphones, and is completely oblivious to the big superheroes vs. supervillains battle happening before the Danville town hall, once again right behind her.
** In the episode "A Real Boy" it is revealed that Vanessa Doofenshmirtz was wearing earbuds when her father Heinz said he would have preferred a son instead of a daughter. It turns out she wears earbuds whenever she is at her father's so that she doesn't have to listen to his many, many ramblings.
* This is a major trait of Taz's sister Molly in ''WesternAnimation/TazMania'', who is almost never seen without her Walkman. In one episode, she just smiles and nods while Bull Gator and Axl cheerfully tell her about their plans to sell her to a zoo.
* In "The Last Temptation" episode of ''WesternAnimation/TheRenAndStimpyShow'', Stimpy is totally unaware that Ren is suffering since he has headphones on whilst watching the TV.

[[folder:Real Life]]
* Best way to avoid being hassled by [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chugger chuggers]]? Headphones and an MP3 player! Works equally well on those people grabbing you to sign their petitions.
* Similarly, putting on headphones is a common tactic for avoiding dealing with particularly flirty/creepy strangers, because it'll discourage making moves on the wearer and give said wearer some verbal ammunition if they get accosted anyway.
* Headphone-wearing joggers and the like have been identified as more targetable for muggers, because one of their senses, hearing, has been compromised and it's easier to catch them by surprise. Some people suggest that cyclists and joggers should only wear one earbud to maintain some auditory awareness of their surroundings. They also make higher-profile targets because they are guaranteed to be carrying something that carries music -- typically a smartphone -- which is more valuable than the average pull.
* The University of Illinois had such a problem with iPod-wearing students walking into traffic that they started a large advertising campaign called "Look. Listen. Live." to remind people to take out the damned earbuds and look both ways before crossing the street.
* In his book on the Simba War, mercenary Major Mike Hoare comments that signalers as a rule appeared to be rather unconcerned about all the bullets flying around them, and speculates that "much wearing of earphones" was the reason.
* Averted with open-back headphones, which let sound in and out freely to have a wider frequency response. Audiophiles tend to swear by these (like the Sennheiser [=HD650=], Grado [=SR60=] and above, AKG K701/702) for their more natural sound (isolating headphones tend to overemphasize bass).
* This trope is the main reason for the US Military's explicit prohibition of headphone use anywhere on a base except fitness centers and its aggressive enforcement thereof.
* Tragically, this is why Mia Zapata of the Seattle band The Gits was unable to hear her murderer coming up behind her until it was too late.
* Similarly incapacitated was the Central Park Jogger, Tricia Meili. When her assailant confessed, he recalled the assault in vivid detail, including that he targeted her specifically because her headphones would block out the sound of his advance.
* Bose markets the noise cancelling technology of their Quiet Comfort line of headphones to appeal to those who want a way to tune out their surroundings on their flights, daily commutes, workplaces, and the like. Whatever the make, noise-cancelling headphones are often a Godsend for autistic people to protect themselves from potentially meltdown-inducing sensory overload.
* Accidentally happens in [[https://notalwaysright.com/a-sign-they-should-start-dating/43050/ this]] [[Website/NotAlwaysRight Not Always Romantic]] story. A girl assumes that the guy she's trying to talk to is deaf, and ''[[{{Determinator}} learns sign language]]'' to talk to him, only for him to pull out his earbuds. However, he's impressed by the effort, and they end up dating.
* When the Sony Walkman was introduced, there were concerns that using personal stereos in public was anti-social. Even today there are people who think using headphones in public is rude, citing this trope.


* Used in one of a Canadian workplace-safety series of ads, to show [[http://paradoxoff.com/scary-workplace-safety-posters.html the dangers of wearing earbuds at work]].

[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* Aversion: Yoh Asakura from ''Manga/ShamanKing'' just likes his headphones and is incredibly outgoing. Of course, before he met Manta, he was [[spoiler:a loner, because people in the modern world fear and misunderstand shamans. Manta was the first... human friend he had ever had.]]
* When Hikaru in ''Manga/OuranHighSchoolHostClub'' was trying to start caring about people besides himself and his brother he was wearing headphones. The whole human empathy finally clicked when he gave them to Haruhi to help her with her FearOfThunder.
* Aoi Shiba in ''Mr. Fullswing'' is constantly listening to music. Constantly. Including when he's playing baseball. Eventually it comes to light that he's barely aware of his surroundings and just has incredible reflexes. He never talks, and it's implied that he's just very, very shy.
* Laxus from ''Manga/FairyTail'' is pretty much always shown with headphones covering his ears. Ironically, he wants [[SocialDarwinist to create a strong guild]], which, in this world, requires plenty of friends and allies. He's considered the loner and outsider in regards to everyone else in the guild though, due to his arrogance. [[spoiler:Finally, he snaps and decides to take it by force in order to show the world how strong Fairy Tail would be under him. After his defeat and [[WalkingTheEarth banishment]], he [[TookALevelInKindness mellowed out considerably]] and eventually rejoined the guild, embracing the friendships there.]] He still wears the headphones, but he has far more scenes with them off than on.
* In ''Anime/{{K}}'', Misaki Yata wears a pair of big, bulky headphones around his neck. In the [[AllThereInTheManual side materials]] (official art, prequel novels, character song lyrics), sharing earbuds is a motif that shows up a lot between him and [[LoveInterestTraitor Saruhiko Fushimi]], in a lot of very [[ShipTease shippy]] ways. After Saruhiko "betrays" Misaki (prior to the series), Misaki wears these not to block out the whole world, just one person.
* Played with in ''Manga/ACertainScientificRailgun'' with a minor villain. The headphones looked to be merely visual short-hand for his isolation, but ended up being a ChekhovsGun for the arc that you hadn't realized had already started.
* Subverted in ''VisualNovel/SchoolDays''. [[{{Jerkass}} Itou Makoto]] wears a set of earphones. Fitting at the start when he's shy and uncertain of how to convey his buried feelings to Kotonoha, but later [[spoiler: a combination between creepy and smug bastardry; after he gets 'bored' with Kotonoha and becomes cold to her, she trips over in the street. Before everyone's eyes, he just calmly turns around, hands in pockets, earphones on, strolls slowly over to her and... doesn't help her up. Just calmly picks up one of the needles that fell out of her bag and asks "You knit?"]]
* Natsuki from ''Anime/{{Tsuritama}}'' was occasionally seen wearing a pair of large headphones before opening up and befriending the other main characters.

[[folder:Comic Strips]]
* In ''ComicStrip/FoxTrot'', there is a comic strip in which Andrea is yelling something at Peter, but her words are practically scribbles due to his headphones.
* ''ComicStrip/{{Zits}}'' plays with this trope, but actually with earbuds in more recent years.

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* Charlie from ''Film/ReignOverMe'' would put his headphones on and turn up his iPod when he found situations getting too stressful for his cope level.
* ''Film/InvasionOfTheBodySnatchers1978'': The remake uses various devices such as broken glass, drawn curtains and yes, even headphones as symbols of unease and isolation.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* In a bit of thematic foreshadowing, a father in the ''Series/DoctorWho'' episode "Midnight" chews out his son for listening to his headphones during the trip instead of interacting with his family.
* In Music/AKB48's drama, ''Series/MajisukaGakuen'', Nezumi frequently combines this with [[InTheHood wearing her sweatshirt's hood up]] to show how detached she is from the rest of the world [[spoiler: and how she begins to open up to Center when she stops wearing them as much and allows her to take off her hood.]]
* Riley Blue of ''Series/{{Sense8}}'' is probably the most emotionally distant of the sensates, and frequently wears headphones that symbolize her disconnect from the rest of society.

* PlayedForLaughs in ''Theatre/VoicesFromTheHighSchool''. Kevin and Jean are both listening to music on headphones while trying to have a conversation. HilarityEnsues.

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* Shy wallflower Clementine from ''{{Webcomic/Frivolesque}}'' is never seen without a large pair of orange headphones on. Being an extremely introverted character, one would think her headphones would prevent people from approaching her. [[http://frivolesque.com/archives/comic/78-networking It doesn't work.]]
* [[Webcomic/TowerOfGod Nya Nia]] wore headphones at all times, despite being a part of a large group and good friends with the current viewpoint character. [[spoiler: It turns out he was TheMole the entire time and never truly was part of the group.]]
* Yoon Sung from ''Webcomic/WelcomeToRoom305'' is always wearing his headphones around his neck and he's also alienation from everybody else due to his homosexuality.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* Neku from ''VideoGame/TheWorldEndsWithYou'', especially at [[spoiler:the end, when he takes them off to signify that he is opening up to people]]. Kitaniji also wears headphones and [[spoiler:plans to [[AssimilationPlot fuse the minds of all of Shibuya]]]]. Notably, Kitaniji's headphones are always around his neck, helping to symbolize [[spoiler:that his plan involves false unity, as opposed to true communication]].
* Apparently, the main character from ''VideoGame/{{Persona 3}}'' had this before he got to the school and had to start making social links. Particularly blatant in that he ignored everything and everyone around him and kept wearing them even when they stopped working during the Dark Hour, but he ''took them off'' when he arrived at his new home in Iwatodai. Amusingly, maxing [[spoiler:Fuuka]]'s Social Link gets him new headphones as the Link Item.
** And in ''VideoGame/{{Persona 4}}'', Yosuke has his own set of headphones, and starts out as a [[CityMouse City Boy]] having difficulty settling into rural Inaba. Though outside of battle, he is never seen with the headphones actually ''on''- merely around his neck.
** An additional, blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment of [[FridgeBrilliance parallel symbolism]] in ''VideoGame/{{Persona 3}}'''s [[RobotGirl Aigis]]: her head is built with a pair of spinner-like objects instead of ears, with a diadem joining them, so she also appears to be wearing headphones ''all the time'' (in reality they're the [[SuperMode Orgia Mode]] actuators.) In the very last ending cinema, when she [[spoiler:no longer speaks in a robotic voice but as a fully idealized human being]], [[spoiler:she's drawn with human hands, skin, and ''ears'']].
* Toyosatomimi no Miko (also known as [[PublicDomainCharacter Prince]] [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_Shotoku Shotoku]]) from ''VideoGame/{{Touhou}}'', who only uses earmuffs to block out her [[SuperSenses superhuman hearing ability]]; thanks to her past as a politician, she has outstanding social skills. The symbolism holds; however; despite being a ProHumanTranshuman; Miko has decided to mostly isolate herself in meditation. While she tolerates the curious visiting, she makes no attempt to communicate anything to them and mostly uses them as servants and couriers.