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Headphones Equal Isolation

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Never have. 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"

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. 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 Scary Shiny Glasses 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 joggers.

Possibly moving towards Discredited Trope territory, now that traditional bulky headphones are being replaced with much smaller earbuds (although in the late 2010s, large headphones appear to be making a comeback, especially wireless ones). However, some works may deliberately invoke this trope by having a character choose large headphones over earbuds precisely for this reason. Meanwhile people who are easily overwhelmed by ambient noise may wear ear defenders, or use noise-cancelling headphones.

Wearing headphones doesn't tune everything out in real life — smells, the floor rumbling, etc. — but can be used this way in fiction for the Rule of Funny.

Compare Ignoring by Singing (the character deliberately makes noise and/or covers his ears to avoid listening) and Fake Static (the character pretends to be unable to hear or understand a transmission). Contrast Bonding Through Shared Earbuds, which is the complete opposite; headphones, specifically earbuds, being used to facilitate companionship with others.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Kurumi from The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Love You constantly wears headphones in an attempt to block out as much food-related talk as possible, in order to stop herself from feeling hungry.
  • Number Three of the Empty Seven in Afro Samurai 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 and is the only one to survive, as he knew they'd fail and wanted no part of it.
  • Invoked in the Detectives' Koshien arc in Case Closed. 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. 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.
  • Accelerator from A Certain Magical Index inverts this after he gets a bullet in his head. The earphones he wears are part of psychic life support, hooking him up with about 10.000 middle school girls. Because he got the injury during his Heel–Face Turn, 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.
  • Mao from Code Geass does this to block out the influx of thoughts from his telepathy. It winds up having consequences though.
  • In the Batman Cold Open of Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' on Heaven's Door, Spike walks into a store robbery wearing headphones to make it look like he's not paying attention to the three guys robbing it.
    Robber: Hey, what the hell you think you're doing? YOU! Are you deaf or what?! (Goes over to him) Yo, Headphone Boy! Take em off!
    Spike: How much is this? (fires party popper in robber's face, then kicks gun out of his hand)
  • Rika Nonaka/Makino Ruki from Digimon Tamers is often seen wearing headphones, especially in earlier episodes.
  • The manga Hikikomori Headphone Girl (forerunner of 7 Billion Needles) is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Toru of Iris Zero deliberately invokes this trope as part of his "low exposure" policy. Since 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 avoid bullying. Using headphones and holding a book in front of him are two ways he does that.
  • Ishigami from Kaguya-sama: Love Is War wears large bulky headphones for playing video games (in contrast to everyone else in the series, who use earbuds). Much like his bangs, they emphasise his desire to shut the world out.
  • Kodocha: Lone wolf Hayama is initially always seen with his headphones, ignoring the world around him.
  • Shani in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED listens to music whenever he's off-duty; his teammates Orga and Clotho engage in similarly solitary activities (reading and playing video games respectively).
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Shinji Ikari is often seen wearing headphones, listening to music on his SDAT player, when he wants to block out reality.
  • No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular! has Tomoko often shown using Bland-Name Product earphones and some official art shows her with headphones on, fitting with her antisocial, awkward and isolated nature.
  • In Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace, 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 Badass Longcoat.
  • Yoh Asakura from Shaman King, 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 an accessory and fashion statement.
  • Kururu of Sgt. Frog wears headphones, which double as a sound-based weapon in a pinch. He's also a dislikable guy.
  • Justin Law from Soul Eater 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 as he does for everyone else. Subverted after his Face–Heel Turn: 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 hear Kid screaming as Gopher beats him up.
  • Inverted with the pair Cerberus wears in Today's Cerberus. Her headphones allow 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.
  • Played with in Tokyo Ghoul 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 Obfuscating Stupidity and tendency to eavesdrop on people, the headphones 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 Time Skip, as part of his development.
  • Val × Love: Yakumo constantly wears headphones because she has Super-Hearing and the headphones stop her from over-stimulating her ears.
  • In Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop, Cherry doesn't actually listen to music, he's just so shy that he uses a pair of wireless headphones to avoid talking to people. Whether or not he's wearing them hints at his mood throughout the movie.

    Comic Strips 
  • Toggle from 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.
  • One The Far Side comic is captioned something like "Bryon has his rendezvous with destiny", and shows Bryon cheerfully roller-skating towards a street-corner listening to music while coming from the other direction is Tarzan bellowing his trademark yell at the head of a herd of stampeding elephants.
    • In another one, a cat pounces at a flock of birds, and the only one that doesn't fly away is wearing headphones.
  • In one 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.
  • Garfield: Garfield uses earbuds to ignore Jon's speech and his accordion.
    Garfield: Noise-canceling earbuds. Best. Invention. Ever.
  • In Pearls Before Swine, Rat has been known to wear headphones just so that he can avoid replying to other people.
  • Living with his loud cousin Max, Andy of Stone Soup is asked by his uncle Wally how such a life can be peaceful. Naturally, Andy gives the headphone answer.
  • Zits:
    • Used as a gag, where Jeremy will use headphones to avoid listening to his annoying mother to a point where he once wore three pairs of headphones (each on top of the other) to block out her nonsensical dialogue.
    • Subverted in one strip where Walt starts 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.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): In this MonsterVerse fanfiction, Madison tends to wear audio earbuds when she's conducting online research into Monster X on her own.

  • Advice and Trust: 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 Secret Relationship) 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."
  • All Mixed Up!: In Chapter 2, Otto is listening to "Probably" by Soundcheck with headphones on and with the volume all the way up. It's so loud and so distracting that Obfusco walking by him can hear it as he and Olive, sitting at her own desk, exchange dirty looks, and Otto can't hear Olive herself when she tries to say something to him. It takes her slowly enunciating her words to get Otto to turn the music off and pay attention to what she's saying.
    Olive: [rolls her eyes] First of all, TURN THAT OFF!
  • In Burnt, an upset mostly-deaf Harry closes his eyes so he can't read Snape's lips and Snape equates it with putting on headphones and turning your back on someone.
  • In episode 23 of Children of an Elder God, 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.
  • Feralnette AU: When Alya offers to walk home with Marinette, only to immediately start gossiping about Felix and asking if Marinette's only befriending him in order to get closer to Adrien, Mari puts on a pair of headphones and walks off, turning on the music to drown out her and Lila's comments.
  • Played for Laughs in Hop to It 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.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide, Shinji admits freely that he doesn't much like 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 The Next Frontier, who is strongly implied to have bought a set of quite expensive headphones specifically so he could tune Jeb and Bill out whenever their Vitriolic Best Buds routine started to get on his nerves.
  • Once More with Feeling: 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 Wake, Shinji Ikari admits his habit of putting on his headphones to block the world out was a bad crutch because it never solved any of his problems.
    "You saw me do almost the same thing a lot, I would put on my headphones and crawl up into myself trying to block everything out. Shutting off the world. I'll admit it felt good to get away from everything like that, but when I came out of it the things that had hurt me were still there, and usually had gotten worse because instead of actually dealing with them I had ignored them."
  • In the What if They Were Competent? retelling of Rugrats episode "Graham Canyon", Angelica puts on headphones and listens to a music cassette in order to block out Tommy when he tries to ask her how long it will take them to get to the Grand Canyon.
  • You Are (Not) At Fault: When she wakes up on the beach and recalls how she got killed, Asuka bitterly wonders whether Shinji did not help her because he was -again- using his headphones to insulate himself instead of paying attention to everything else.

    Films — Animation 
  • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks, DJ-Pon-3 (a.k.a. Vinyl Scratch) is always wearing her headphones. In the background of "Battle", while the Dazzlings use their music to brainwash the student body, she's seen bouncing to her own music, completely unaffected. 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.
  • In the Novelization of Turning Red, Mei puts on her headphones and drowns out the phone conversation that Ming has with Grandma Wu thus explaining why Mei is surprised by her mother's more vulnerable side later on as she doesn't hear it coming out during the call.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Amazing Spider-Man, Stan Lee makes his requisite cameo appearance as a school librarian listening to classical music on his headphones, oblivious to the Lizard vs. 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 The Watcher in all these cameo appearances...
  • Played for Laughs in Anna and the Apocalypse — Anna and John don't initially realize that the Zombie Apocalypse is happening because they have their earbuds in.
  • Alien 40th Anniversary Shorts. In "Specimen", the female protagonist is listening to headphones during a lone night shift. Therefore she realises too late that the Red Alert has sounded indicating the lab is about to be put into Lock Down.
  • An Invoked Trope in the film adaptation of the Stephen King short story Battleground. The 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.
  • In Ben X 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.
  • Might be the point of the Action Girl in Blade: Trinity listening to her iPod while slaying vampires. Either that or Product Placement (it certainly doesn't seem to hurt her performance in battle any).
  • Spoofed during Tony Jaa's cameo in the comedy film, The Bodyguard (Thai). There is a massive shootout happening in a shopping mall, with customers and shop keepers running out en-masse in a panic, except for this one random cleaner still tidying the shelves while whistling to himself with a pair of headphones on him. But since this cleaner is played by Tony Jaa, he's naturally a Badass Bystander who immediately starts kicking ass when he noticed the chaos happening around him.
  • In City Slickers, 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 Dobermann, Mosquito fails to notice an armed police raid on the club—-accompanied by a lot of gunfire—-because he has headphones on while having sex.
  • In Face/Off 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.
  • Near the end of Get Out (2017), Rose is peacefully listening to music and using her laptop, causing her to nearly miss the epic violence breaking out in the living room.
  • In 1998 Godzilla, the headphone guy didn't even feel the ground shaking.
  • In Grosse Pointe Blank, 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 The Hangover Part III, 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 Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, Agent Fox on his seat listening to Danger Zone while the titular duo break free from captivity and attempt to jump off the plane.
  • In Part 1 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry, Hermione, and Ron escape to a diner. 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 The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard, when Bryce goes to Capri on his sabbatical, he starts by putting on headphones and reading The Secret completely oblivious to the chaos danger behind him until Sonia takes his headphones off.
  • In Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Kevin, annoyed by a French passenger next to him, puts on his headphones and cranks the volume, conveniently allowing him to not hear the flight attendant announce that he's on a plane to New York and not the Miami flight his family is on.
  • In The Host (2006), 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.
  • 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. (Truth in Television: for some reason, while you can't hear voices through headphones, telephones go right through them.)
  • In The Internship, one guy wears conspicuous headphones so that people don't bother him.
  • Intruder has Joe, the guy who works meat prep, getting killed when his Walkman drowns out the sound of the killer's approach.
  • In Judas Kiss, Friedman's daughter is wearing headphones and fails to notice her father beating up Matty Grimes with a golf club in the next room, accompanied by Grimes' screams.
  • Used for a Left the Background Music On gag in Kick-Ass. Hit Girl's first fight is conducted to the The Banana Splits song. Outside in the hallway a mook belatedly realises something is wrong and takes off his headphones, muting the song.
  • In Layer Cake, an assassin who works for the gangsters from Oop North 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 Lockjaw: Rise of the Kulev Serpent, Becky fails to hear the monster truck that kills her approaching because she is wearing headphones while she collects the mail.
  • In The Lost World: Jurassic Park (the film, not the book), a redshirt makes the mistake of 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 ends up devoured by dinosaurs. Later in the movie, it apparently takes throwing a stone at his head to get his attention.
  • In Mars Attacks!, 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.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Agent Carter: A pre-headphones variant, but still the same idea; the desk guard of the Zodiac hideout doesn't overhear Peggy beating the snot out of two other flunkies because he's got the radio turned up.
    • Avengers: Infinity War: One tie-in ad for Rocket Mortgage shows the Avengers working together to save a woman who has aimlessly walked into the battle with massive headphones, checking her phone app.
    • Avengers: Endgame:
      • Thor stands impassively in the background wearing headphones while the other Avengers prepare for Clint's test run.
      • When Nebula and War Machine travel back in time to collect the Power Stone in the year 2014, they arrive just in time to find Star-Lord dancing to Come and Get Your Love on his Walkman. For the latter dancing around while listening to music on his Walkman, he seems cool. For the former two, not so much. Little does Star-Lord know what was coming for him...
      War Machine: [watching Quill dance around and singing to music they can't hear] So he's an idiot? [Quill slides down] *WHACK*
  • In the Action Prologue Nikita the title character is stoned out of her mind, and spends the entire shoot-out sitting under the counter with a Thousand-Yard Stare listening to her headphones. A cop finds her and assumes she's harmless until she puts a gun under his chin...
  • The Old Guard. When Nile Freeman comes back to life after having her throat cut, her fellow soldiers are understandably freaked out and shun her. She retreats from their stares and whispers to a quiet place and puts on her earphones to listen to Songs of Solace, though she's quickly interrupted.
  • In Paddington (2014), as part of her mild Bratty Teenage Daughter tendencies towards self-isolation, intense interest in learning languages and overall terminal case of embarrassment about her family, Judy Brown tends to stop about the place wearing a large pair of noise-cancelling headphones wherever she goes.
  • In Slaxx, Shruti never notices the mayhem around her because she's wearing noise-canceling headphones and listening to Bollywood music. The last bit saves her life, as the villain is the ghost of an Indian farm laborer who, upon listening to Shruti's singing, starts dancing along instead of attacking her.
  • 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).
  • In 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.
  • Danny Pennington, the troubled teen from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990).
    Charles Pennington: See? That's what he does when he wants to ignore me. Sticks his head in those things.
  • Used as a Chekhov's Gag in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The second time it comes up, Dixon's headphones cause him not to notice the police station he's in being firebombed.
  • Another Schwarzenegger example: In The Terminator, 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.
  • 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.
  • True Lies: The music-loving janitor is unaware of the conflict outside until a Harrier Jet crashes through the window.
  • Played for horror in When Good Ghouls Go Bad: the janitor wears a pair when he turns on the kiln Curtis is trapped in, turning what was supposed to be a harmless prank into a Deadly Prank.
  • Mariko wears them in The Wolverine... while Logan is battling Yakuza above her in a Traintop Battle. 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 Desperate Housewives, Juanita "Mama" Solis he tries to leave the hospital immediately after waking up to tell her son Carlos about his wife Gabrielle's infidelity, only to slip on a wet floor and fall down the stairs. She tries to tell a nurse who finds her to inform Carlos, but the nurse doesn't hear what she has to say because she is wearing headphones, and she dies taking the secret with her.
  • Everest (2002): Sammi is constantly zoned out listening to rock-and-roll on her Walkman, which once causes her to not realize that an avalanche has breezed through the base camp until several minutes later.
  • Shel Silverstein's ''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 Frederick Forsyth. One of the MI 5 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 The Dresden Files, 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 Strength & Justice: 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.
  • In Wyatt by Garry Disher, Wyatt deliberately invokes this by buying a cheap pair of earphones and wearing them while on the train to dissuade anyone from trying to strike a conversation with him.
  • In My Dark Vanessa, Jenny figures out what's going on between Strane and Vanessa and offers to help, but Vanessa thinks Strane loves her and refuses. The two get into a fight, and then Vanessa puts on headphones that aren't even plugged into anything to get Jenny to leave her alone.
  • Zoe from Social Queue wears headphones on the train even when she doesn't feel like listening to anythng to discourage people from talking to her.
  • Night Watch (Series): The main protagonist, Anton, is almost invariably listening to music on his headphones while on duty. He explains he does this because his ability to interact with the Twilight makes the world seem unreal to him, and the music helps keep him sane. It is implied that Anton's Minidisc player is not choosing songs at random and may be a subconscious form of divining.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Fate: The Winx Saga: Invoked by Musa and Terra. Terra asks if Musa is wearing her headphones to avoid conersation. Musa responds that she wears her headphones not because she doesn't want to talk but rather because it helps block out the emotions of others and allows her to focus on how she herself feels.
  • In the study hall episode of Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, one of Ned's tips is that a good way to prevent people from distracting you is to wear headphones. After Martin leaves upon seeing the headphones, Ned gleefully shows the audience that he doesn't even have them plugged into anything. Unfortunately, Loomer noticed and decided to give Ned some heavy metal music to listen to...
  • 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 too loud for him if he doesn't wear them.
  • Frequently invoked in Game Shows, when one contestant in some way has to be isolated from another contestant's gameplay, such as in early series of The Krypton Factor, or some audio cue such as in Fast And Loose's "Interpretive Dance" round.
  • Series/Astrid: The titular character is sometimes seen with ear defenders when out of doors or in public spaces , as she hypersensitive and prone to burning out in noisy enviroments.
  • In a UK series of Big Brother, the housemates were given a task of who could keep dancing on the spot the longest, to music through their headphones. As well as not being able to hear what was happening around them, they were also blindfolded, so they could not see if anyone dropped out.
  • Similarly invoked on Whose Line Is It Anyway? for the "Action Replay" game in which Wayne and Cathy will act out a scene while Colin and Ryan watch the action while wearing headphones with loud music that blocks out the dialogue; after Wayne and Cathy finish the scene, Colin and Ryan have to recreate their actions while coming up with their own dialogue.
  • Used by Elena's brother in The Vampire Diaries
  • In an episode of Two and a Half Men 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 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 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 the music.
  • An episode of Full House 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 an insult.
  • In 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 Primeval, pretty much every other episode has a bit where a monster creeps up on someone with headphones in.
  • On One Life to Live, 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 Korean Drama Can You Hear My Heart? by Cha Dong Joo to hide the fact that he's deaf.
  • Played for Laughs in How I Met Your Mother. Ted and Robin were dating and had their first fight. In simultaneous mirroring 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 asks "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 Power Rangers Mystic Force because he's wearing headphones. Mind you, he doesn't notice much anyway...
  • In one episode of Hawaii Five-0, 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.
  • Gotham: In "The Fearsome Dr. Crane", a cleaner wearing headphones fails to notice a man being outside the window behind her back.
  • Person of Interest. In "Legacy" the headphone-wearing Victim of the Week doesn't notice a hitman walk up behind her and aim a pistol at her head, nor the noisy hand-to-hand combat when Reese intervenes.
  • Daredevil (2015): 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 "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.
  • Iron Fist (2017). When Mary Walker is fighting Danny Rand, she puts in her headphones when Danny starts screaming so her more caring alternate personality won't surface.
  • Played for Laughs in Lucifer when Maze secretly turns on her headphones and nods sympathetically as her roommate vents about her recent troubles, but all Maze can hear is loud rock music.
  • In the first episode of season 2 of Stranger Things, 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. Later, at the beginning of season 4, Max wears her headphones as part of her attempts to shut others out following the trauma of Billy's death the previous season.
  • In the last episode of season 1 of Westworld, a technician puts in noise-canceling earphones which keep him oblivious of the Full-Frontal Assault happening in the room behind him. At least until the glass pane breaks.
  • In the season two premier of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, 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 of cops goes on right behind her in the middle of the bullpen.
  • During the California Dreams episode "The Graduation", Principal Blumford takes up the role of the disc jockey at the Sharkey's. When Lorena compliments Blumford's taste in music as being "up to date", Blumford responds that he listens to his preferred songs of choice (e.g. Y.M.C.A.) in his headphone instead of whatever he plays for the students.
  • Various episodes of 13 Reasons Why (season 2—onward) feature one particular high school student who is most frequently seen attached to a pair of headphones. Multiple occasions show the person completely oblivious to whatever's going on.
  • Raising Dion: In episode 8, when the Crooked Man attacks Charlotte, Dion is in his room, wearing earphones plugged into his tablet so he can video call his friend Esperanza. As such, he doesn't notice anything about the sudden storm just outside his window.
  • In Broad City, Ilana's coworker dislikes her and wears earplugs over headphones to try to block her out.
  • Mr. Bean:
    • In "Mr Bean Rides Again", Mr Bean wears headphones on a plane, and is enjoying the music so much that he is unaware of a member of cabin crew near him. He accidentally slaps her, just before she asks him to look after a young boy sitting next to him.
    • In "Tee Off, Mr Bean", Mr Bean tries to retrieve his trousers which accidentally ended up in a woman's laundry. The woman is wearing headphones (with music loud enough for the audience to hear), and is unaware of Mr Bean's presence. She puts her clothes inside the tumble drier and switches it on, completely unaware that Mr Bean has climbed inside.

  • The page quote comes from Maxeen's song "Block Out The World", which is the very trope in song form.
  • "Balsam", a Vocaloid song performed by Yuzuki Yukari, invokes this very deliberately. "The plug on my headphones remains barren//Anyway, for now, I want to isolate myself from this world." Indicating that the singer doesn't even use the headphones to listen to music.
  • "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 Regina Spektor's song Eet. ( You ease in your headphones / to drown out your mind )
  • In the video for "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 Jars of Clay.
  • Also of "Headphones" by Björk.
  • And "Headphones" by Little Boots.
  • As well as "Hiding in my Headphones" by Reel Big Fish.
  • The song "Fugazi" from 1984 by 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 L7: "I wear my headphones so I can't hear what you say."
  • Inverted by 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 Britt Nicole, where the singer is encouraging lonely people to put on headphones to help them feel loved.
  • FFS (the collaboration between Franz Ferdinand and Sparks) has the song "Johnny Delusional". It begins with Johnny unable to approach the object of his attraction because she's wearing headphones ("Words are in my head / but I can't enunciate them clearly. / Headphones on your head, / they prevent the chance to even try."); it ends with Johnny considering the terrible possibility that the woman isn't even listening to music, but is just wearing headphones to keep him away.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Invoked by many professional and semi-professional 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 annoying and rude.

    Video Games 
  • An enemy Mook near the beginning of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty 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 "This Is Not a Drill" for the past 20 minutes, warning everybody that the whole place is about to crumble.
  • Neku, the main character of The World Ends with You 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. 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 Backyard Sports can not hear much because he always has his headphones on. This gets worse later.
  • The Persona games made under Katsura Hashino's direction all have at least one character that invokes this trope:
    • The hero of Persona 3 wears his headphones and MP3 player throughout the game, and the opening cinema establishes his detachment from the world around him. His Spirit Advisor 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 Persona 4 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 Persona 5. She's introduced as a Hikikomori who absolutely freezes up in most social situations, and it's implied she wears them to drown out her auditory hallucinations. That said, she still keeps the headphones even after she begins to open up to others.
  • Killer7's Con Smith wears them all the time despite being a blind gunman. Later, it turns out his inattentiveness as a result of his headphones was the reason he was easily killed by Emir.
  • One cutscene in Saints Row 2 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.
  • Saints Row IV 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.
  • Ace Attorney
    • 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). 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 were made to protect her from having a Sensory Overload from her special sense of hearing detecting everyone's emotions at once.
  • Tokimeki Memorial 4 has Ice Queen 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 Ghost Trick, 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 Dead Island 2, the jogger has his iPod set to max volume, so he is completely oblivious to the Zombie Apocalypse behind him as he jogs to Pigeon John's "The Bomb". Since he was already bitten at some point, he quickly becomes part of the Zombie Apocalypse.
  • Annaliese's Establishing Character Moment in Missing Stars 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 The Darkside Detective, when McQueen interviews the passengers of a subway train that was temporarily trapped in the Dark World, 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.
  • Cozy Grove: Headphones are a cosmetic item, with the Flavour Text "It isn't that I can't hear you. I just don't want to talk to you."

    Web Animation 
  • In Dora No More Dora is about to be hit by a train due to walking in the middle of the tracks while listening to music on her headphones.
  • In the first episode of 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 one of the mobsters threatens her.

  • Francis pretended to be unable to hear with headphones on in this Pv P strip.
  • Dangerously Chloe: Alchemy failed to notice Teddy was approaching her because she'd gotten so into her groove, that she started twerking. Of course, once she realized she'd been caught in the act, she flew off in embarrassment.
  • Ma-ri of Orange Marmalade 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. They are destroyed around the time she was able to find the very first human to accept her for what she was.
  • Schlock Mercenary: A scientist wears headphones while working, and doesn't notice the firefight going on as a result. One of the mercs defending him calls dibs on his headphones if he dies.

    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 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 love interest is kidnapped and he suicidally goes one-on-one against the god-like Big Bad, he takes off his headphones and abandons them on the ground before jumping in, his stutter revealed to the other characters for the first time the moment he opens his mouth to speak. Luckily he unlocks a higher level of his power in time to not make the fight a full suicide.
  • Paw the Music Guy from Channel Awesome 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 extremes in CollegeHumor
  • Apple iPods are notoriously noise-cancelling. When they came out, there was a meme format where a character blindly wandering into danger was vainly warned of their peril by the caption, only for the Lemony Narrator to realize "[They're] wearing iPods! God help us, [they] can't hear us!"

    Western Animation 
  • In Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog in a Sonic Sez segment Tails listens to music, making him unaware he is about to be run over by a steamroller driven by Scratch and Grounder.
  • Amphibia:
    • "Anne of the Year": If not for the headphones Anne was wearing in the flashback from when the Plantars were leaving home to vote, she would've known about the Frog of the Year award one week before the episode's beginning.
    • "Anne-sterminator": The girl walking the dog is oblivious to nearly being run over by the Boonchuys and the robot chasing them because she's glued to her phone and has her earbuds in.
  • In part one of the Batman: The Animated Series two-parter Feat of Clay, Roland Daggett's 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 Batman Beyond episode "Untouchable", a maintenance woman was oblivious to a battle between Batman and the Repeller because of her headphones.
  • In an episode of Doug, Roger keeps pestering Patti to do his book report. After the two end up getting sent to detention for disrupting class, Roger still won't let up. Patti finally puts on a set of headphones and starts listening to some music in an attempt to block him out.
  • In Family Guy "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.
  • Kim Possible:
    • In "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 mind-control shampoo.
    • In "Two to Tutor", Shego is tutoring Señor Senior Junior in proper villainy, and catches him listening to headphones. She crushes his music player to get his attention.
  • In the Lilo & Stitch: The Series 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 the black hole directly above her that sucked up her entire house.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • In the episode "Mommy, Can You Hear Me?", Linda (the mother) is wearing headphones to listen to Lawrence's (the father) soundscapes, while working in the garden and quite fails to notice Phineas and Ferb building their big project of the day right behind her.
    • In Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel, 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.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (2016): In "Never Been Blissed", during a school dance, Professor Utonium becomes the DJ. In an effort to look cool, he wears headphones and fake sunglasses (eyeglasses painted black, so he can't see through them). Because of both of these accessories, he doesn't notice when the dance gets crashed by alien invaders.
  • In "The Last Temptation" episode of The Ren & Stimpy Show, Stimpy is totally unaware that Ren is suffering since he has headphones on whilst watching the TV.
  • Shimmer and Shine: In "All Bottled Up", Zeta imprisons Shimmer and Shine inside a bottle and it lands on a flying carpet that belongs to a genie whose headphones prevent him from hearing their screams for help. When he finally hears, he thinks his flying carpet can talk.
  • In The Simpsons, 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.
  • This is a major trait of Taz's sister Molly in Taz-Mania, 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.
  • Work It Out Wombats!: In "Brother Day," when Malik is reading, he wears headphones, showing how he's not listening to Zeke and not really spending time with him.

    Real Life 
  • Best way to avoid being hassled by 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.
    • This is precisely the fate that befell Tricia Meili, aka The Central Park Jogger. 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.
    • This is also why Mia Zapata of the Seattle band The Gits was unable to hear her murderer coming up behind her until it was too late.
  • 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.
    • Similarly, there have been several incidents of people run over by trains while walking the tracks, wearing headphones.
  • 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.
  • 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 this Not Always Romantic story. A girl assumes that the guy she's trying to talk to is deaf, and 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. Early models averted this by having two headphone jacks and a microphone to allow two people to talk to each other while music was playing. Even today there are people who think using headphones in public is rude, citing this trope.
  • This trope can have some basis in reality for those with anxiety disorders or autism, especially if those in the latter category use them to avoid sensory issues and/or have an attachment to them. Some of these people with noise canceling headphones don't even listen to music on them.
  • Invoked deliberately in some BDSM scenes. Ear equipment is often used in sensory deprivation play.
  • Headphone companies such as Koss noticed this trend and made it a point of their marketing early on, allowing listeners to envelop themselves in their own personal soundscapes.
  • In many workplaces, wearing headphones on the job is an OSHA violation because it runs the risk of someone getting seriously injured or killed because they won't hear a piece of heavy machinery coming up behind them.



    Anime & Manga 
  • Played With in A Certain Scientific Railgun with a minor villain. The headphones looked to be merely visual short-hand for his isolation, but ended up being a Chekhov's Gun for the arc that you hadn't realized had already started.
  • Laxus from Fairy Tail is pretty much always shown with headphones covering his ears before his Heel–Face Turn. Ironically, he wants 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. 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 banishment, he 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.
  • Anime/FLCLs sequel Progressive features Hidomi Hibajiri, who wears a pair of headphones with cat ears and some of those blue LE Ds that are the current fashions for electronics these days. They are however a product of the towns' major employer, a manufacturer of medical devices.
  • In K, Misaki Yata wears a pair of big, bulky headphones around his neck. In the side materials (official art, prequel novels, character song lyrics), sharing earbuds is a motif that shows up a lot between him and Saruhiko Fushimi, in a lot of very shippy ways. After Saruhiko "betrays" Misaki (prior to the series), Misaki wears these not to block out the whole world, just one person.
  • 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.
  • When Hikaru in Ouran High School Host Club 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 Fear of Thunder.
  • Miku Nakano of The Quintessential Quintuplets is the most withdrawn and quiet out of her sisters, and is almost always seen wearing a large pair of blue headphones around her neck. Interestingly, her sisters comment they've never seen her wearing them properly (and the anime only shows one stance of this, while she's playing a game in her computer).
  • Subverted in School Days. 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 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?"
  • Aversion: Yoh Asakura from Shaman King just likes his headphones and is incredibly outgoing. Of course, before he met Manta, he was a loner, because people in the modern world fear and misunderstand shamans. Manta was the first... human friend he had ever had.
  • Natsuki from Tsuritama was occasionally seen wearing a pair of large headphones before opening up and befriending the other main characters.

    Comic Books 
  • In the first Animorphs graphic novel, Tobias puts on headphones while walking through the construction site, highlighting how he is hanging at the back of the group and in his own little world.

    Comic Strips 
  • In FoxTrot, there is a comic strip in which Andrea is yelling something at Peter, but her words are practically scribbles due to his headphones.
  • Zits plays with this trope, but actually with earbuds in more recent years.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Charlie from Reign Over Me would put his headphones on and turn up his iPod when he found situations getting too stressful for his cope level.
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978): The remake uses various devices such as broken glass, drawn curtains and yes, even headphones as symbols of unease and isolation.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In a bit of thematic foreshadowing, a father in the Doctor Who episode "Midnight" chews out his son for listening to his headphones during the trip instead of interacting with his family.
  • In AKB48's drama, Majisuka Gakuen, Nezumi frequently combines this with wearing her sweatshirt's hood up to show how detached she is from the rest of the world 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 Sense8 is probably the most emotionally distant of the sensates, and frequently wears headphones that symbolize her disconnect from the rest of society.


    Video Games 
  • Love Plus: Rinko Kobayakawa, one of the possible Love Interests in the game, can be seen sporting a pair of headphones fairly often, even at school. In fact, the first time you hear about Rinko if you started your game at spring, it's when a female student tells her friend how Rinko ignored her greeting and doesn't seem to fit in with the other students. She eventually removes the headphones after you go out with her for the second time in the first part of the game. It's a small change, but it shows the Character Development.
  • Apparently, the main character from 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 Fuuka's Social Link gets him new headphones as the Link Item.
    • An additional, blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment of parallel symbolism in Persona 3's 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 Orgia Mode actuators.) In the very last ending cinema, when she no longer speaks in a robotic voice but as a fully idealized human being, she's drawn with human hands, skin, and ears.
    • And in Persona 4, Yosuke has his own set of headphones, and starts out as a 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.
  • Toyosatomimi no Miko (also known as Prince Shotoku) from Touhou Project, who only uses earmuffs to block out her superhuman hearing ability; thanks to her past as a politician, she has outstanding social skills. The symbolism holds; however; despite being a Pro-Human Transhuman; 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.
  • Neku from The World Ends with You, especially at the end, when he takes them off to signify that he is opening up to people. Kitaniji also wears headphones and plans to fuse the minds of all of Shibuya. Notably, Kitaniji's headphones are always around his neck, helping to symbolize that his plan involves false unity, as opposed to true communication.

  • Shy wallflower Clementine from 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. It doesn't work.
  • Tower of God: Nya Nia wore headphones at all times, despite being a part of a large group and good friends with the current viewpoint character. It turns out he was The Mole the entire time and never truly was part of the group.
  • Yoon Sung from Welcome to Room #305 is always wearing his headphones around his neck and he's also alienation from everybody else due to his homosexuality.


Video Example(s):


A typical teen ignoring the world around him as he blares emo music into his ears.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / HeadphonesEqualIsolation

Media sources: