I love traveling, but recently it has been harder for me to ride comfortably on an airplane. It’s not the size of the seats or the lack of legroom, although both seem to get smaller every day, it is the noise. The constant hum of the engine seems to trigger my tinnitus, with the bouts getting more severe lately. You can read about that here. So when I needed to fly my daughter out to California (from New York) for camp, I was worried how I would handle the two 6-hour plane flights on back-to-back days. I didn’t want to be incapacitated or have more trouble than usual hearing when I needed to be alert and upbeat for her start to camp.
On previous plane flights, I had tried a number of tactics to keep out the background noise — turning off my hearing aids which then act as earplugs and wearing hoods/hats to block the noise further — but I had not wanted to shell out the cash for a pair of noise cancelling headphones. Plus, who has room in their carry-on bag for such a bulky item. But this time, I felt like I didn’t have a choice. Twelve hours on a plane within a 36 hour period was not the time to skimp on noise protection. So I dug into my wallet and bought a pair.
They worked wonders! I turned my hearing aids way down (I have a sleep mode) and put on the headphones. I had chosen the over the ear variety, because earbuds always hurt my ears, and I thought the padding might offer some extra protection in addition to comfort. As people were boarding, I put in the battery and switched on the noise cancelling feature, just to get a sense of how it might sound. It made a bit of a difference, but it wasn’t too loud yet, so I withheld judgement. Once we were in the air, the impact was tremendous. The hum of the engine was essentially gone, as were most other sounds, but to me the main goal was to get rid of the rhythmic engine sound, which I think is what triggers my tinnitus.
Flight number one went well, and I was able to drop my daughter off without any hearing or tinnitus episode. Flight number two also went well, and I was no worse for wear the following day. This is a new experience after airplane travel. Looks like I need to make some permanent room in my carry-on luggage for these noise cancelling headphones.
Readers, do you use noise cancelling headphones on the plane?
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30 thoughts on “Cancel The Noise, Not The Flight”
I am having a parallel experience! Just last week I also caved in and bought a pair of Very Expensive Famous Brand noise-cancelling headphones in anticipation of a cross-country trip to visit family. As a matter of fact, I will be using them again for the flight home tomorrow.
My experience so far is mixed. They definitely cut down/cut out the roar of the jets while still allowing some voices to come through. With music (what little I can understand) they were even better. I turned my one BTE aid totally off but I did not try putting the other Lyric hearing aid into sleep mode like you did, as I didn’t want to be totally disconnected…… but I think I will try that on this return flight since you had success.
My first day post flight my hearing was more muffled, although it only lasted a day this time.
Because I just read your post I checked my headphones and realized I left them on and killed the battery. So thanks for this because I would have had dead headphones on the plane tomorrow !
How funny! Try the sleep mode for the lyric. You will definitely be unable to hear well on the plane, but it was worth it for me to have better hearing once I landed. Let me know how it goes.
Thanks, Shari. We must continue sharing those strategies that help. I don’t fly enough to invest in expensive headphones but I do listen to audio books with an over the ear bluetooth headset that cuts out extraneous noise quite well. I also use the volume control on my hearing aids. Of course, turning them off ushers me into a sound proof room.
I am glad the Bluetooth headset works well for you. I agree that sharing strategies is a big help. Thanks for sharing yours.
I have traveled very long flights since when I was a toddler, and love the window seat. Perhaps it’s the engines and annual flights during my youth that have contributed to my hearing loss. I started using a hearing aid on my weak right ear (my left side hearing is barely existent) from my sophomore year of high school, and my recall my first long-haul flight across the Pacific (11-12 hours) was dependent on noise-canceling earphones and foam earplugs.
At a work conference raffle, I won a pair of $300 Bose QuietComfort 15 headphones and though they are little bulky to pack on one’s carry-on, they are a very handy tool for long-haul flights to cancel out engine drone. Also, I have found that the 3M-brand earplugs that are arrow-shaped are the most effective to block out the engine noise. I have used these and survived economy and business class 14- and 15-hour flights across the globe. Even if I had not won this pair but tasted the power of noise-canceling devices, I would be willing to invest in a pair. I remove my hearing aid and store it in a special pouch since it is a BTE and will get in the way of the headphone rim. I’ve also found these headphones a great match for in-flight entertainment devices as well as whatever portable media devices you on that help you kill time on long flights.
Excellent points. Thanks for sharing your experience. I used the Bose headphones as well.
Shari, thanks for this timely article. I’ve been traveling a lot on business and find that the musicians’ earplugs I usually wear for noise protection don’t work so well on a plane given the changes in air pressure. So I’ve already packed a pair of headphones for my next flight!
Glad to hear it! Safe travels.
I have the travelling earplugs for my tinnitus. They do help me a lot, but sometimes it gets Severe. Thanks for this helpful guide
Thanks for reading!
I bought my noise-cancelling headphones for a flight to Europe, but now rely on them heavily to reduce the noise at the gym. Not only do they protect my good left ear, they preserve my sanity and lessen the exhaustion generated by the constant din.
I am interested in noise-cancelling earbuds for restaurants and would welcome any recommendations.
Great question. I have not tried the earbuds, but others on the thread may have. I hope you get some good suggestions. Thanks for your comment.
I get all these flying issues too but my main annoyance is personal in flight entertainment on long haul flights. There are subtitles available in all kinds of languages but none in English! Not sure if this is the same on all airlines, but certainly the ones I have experienced. So frustrating!
I agree! I think only Delta has some with subtitles.
I cannot speak to the issue of subtitles, but for airplane noise I have found that my Bose noise canceling earphones are invaluable, not just for the airplane noise but for the din of conversation in the airplane itself. They save my sanity.
Yes! That is what I use too. They are great!
Lol how different we all are. I’m still reeling from the concept that planes make noise! I guess that’s why airports sell headphones. The dots are connecting at last. I thought they made a slight whizzing noise while taking off then went silent…
How funny! Thanks for your comment!
Would noise canceling headphone allow me to use my Bluetooth hearing aids to listen to a downloaded movie not the roar of the engines what is the best set not breaking the bany. Thank you
I sometimes use the bluetooth on my headphones to watch a movie, but I’m not sure they would help you do that on your hearing aids, unless they fit over your hearing aids. I use the Bose Noise-Cancelling headphones which are great, but pricey. Good luck to you!
Noise-canceling headphones sure is best for inflight ear protection but they are bulky and expensive, instead, I found that airpods can do wonders when it comes to inflight ear protection. They cost a lot less than noise-canceling headphones and are multipurpose.
The noise-cancelling feature is a must for me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.