5 Reasons Why Noise Cancelling Headphones are Essential to Air Travel


noisecancelWe all know there are certain perks to Business Class travel and flying First Class, but most of us typically think of things like the size of the seat, how far it reclines, or the quality of the food we’re going to be served. A quick scan of the amenities offered by many airlines in First and Business Class these days, however, reveals that they’re keyed into a growing trend among frequent travelers – the necessity of noise-cancelling headphones.

More and more often you’ll see noise-cancelling headphones offered as a perk in Business and First Class, but the truth is that many frequent travelers now carry their own on board every single flight they take. Should you be doing the same thing? In other words, why are noise cancelling headphones essential for air travel? Let’s look at five good reasons.

>> More information and links to buy noise cancelling headphones, including Bose, Panasonic, and Audio-Technica

Reduce Hearing Loss

This is by far the least glamorous reason on the list, but it’s also probably the most important. Once you’re in the air – and as long as there isn’t a screaming baby right behind you – you probably stop noticing the high level of constant noise that’s on a plane. It may be “white noise,” but your hearing can be damaged by prolonged exposure to high volumes of white noise, too.

Noise cancelling headphones don’t just keep you from hearing that screaming baby, they also block out that incessant hum caused by the engines pushing the plane through the air. And that’s something your ears will thank you for many years down the road, long after you’re no longer a road warrior.

Block Out Unwanted Noise Distractions

Okay, now it’s time to talk more about that screaming baby. We’ve all been on those flights where some poor tot’s ears won’t pop, or she has a head-cold and is uncomfortable for the duration of the trip. You can’t help but feel for the little one (and her accompanying parents), but that doesn’t mean you need to listen to her the whole time.

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And it’s not just the wailing baby, either. If you’re trying to work on your presentation at the last minute, or working on a grant proposal, or even enjoying some down time and attempting to finish that great book you’re reading before the plane lands, any bursts of noise will distract you from your task. With noise cancelling headphones, you can shut out the noisy world and concentrate on whatever you’d like to.

Better Audio Experience for Entertainment

Noise cancelling headphones are often listed as a perk in Business Class and First Class under the “entertainment” section, so the airlines know they can enhance your entertainment experience. Everything from the name to most of the advertising for noise cancelling headphones focuses on how they block out noise, but another feature of most quality noise cancelling headphones is that they also provide exceptional sound from your music or movie player.

Remember that constant din we mentioned earlier that’s on every plane? You might have had to turn up the volume on your iPod or your DVD player – or even on the in-flight movie – in order to hear everything. With a good set of noise cancelling headphones, not only do you block out the din, you don’t have to crank the volume on what you’re listening to in order to enjoy clear and quality sound.

Increased Restfulness

Many people use their flights to catch up on the sleep they lost the night before as they frantically packed their bags and brushed up their PowerPoint skills. This is even more true if you’re on a long overseas flight that puts you at your destination in the morning. If you haven’t slept well on your flight, then it’ll take you that much longer to get adjusted to a new time zone and you’ll walk around the whole first day (or two) like a zombie.

By donning a pair of noise cancelling headphones before you drift off into la-la land, you’ll stand a better chance of getting honest-to-goodness restful sleep on your flight. No, those noise cancelling headphones can’t do anything about how much your seat reclines, whether your seat-mate hogs the arm-rest, or the fact that the toddler behind you has just figured out that he can reach (i.e. kick) the seat in front of him. But assuming those stars are aligned properly, noise cancelling headphones will help you get your beauty rest.

Shut Out Whoever (or Whatever) You Want

Whereas reducing hearing loss may be the least glamorous reason on this list for getting a pair of noise cancelling headphones, this is the least socially acceptable reason. Did you read or see “The Accidental Tourist?” Y’know how he carries that huge book onto every flight, and although he basically never reads it it provides him with a shield from inquisitive seat-mates? If that book were written now, he’d have scrapped the oversized tome for a pair of noise cancelling headphones.

Yes, noise cancelling headphones will help you successfully avoid answering too many questions about where you’re from and where you’re going. You won’t have to get into a long discussion about the book you’re reading, movie you’re watching, or (tryin’ to work here) presentation you’re touching up. And even if you never turn on your iPod, you can pretend you’re catching up on podcasts or an audio book, sit back, and relax – uninterrupted.

photo by CLF