Airplane Noise

Written by Robert Mac
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Airplane noise disrupts everyone on board. Pilots have trouble hearing radio instructions from the tower, and flight attendants can't hear passengers' comments. The only thing you can hear while airborne is the din of airplane noise: wind, engines, and dozens of conversations at once.

Luckily, airplane noise has met its match. There are a number of noise reducing headphones that cut the roar of the plane to a mere hum--or even less. Some of these headphones claim to reduce background sound by nearly 30 decibels. That's impressive enough to shout from the mountaintops . . . and no one would hear you.

Cutting Airplane Noise at the End, Not the Source

In time, we will have the ability to control the physics of sound more than we can do today. For now, we can't hit mute and turn the sound off large, open-spaced noises, but we can control the acoustic properties of enclosed sounds, like those in headphones. In effect, we can't stop the flood, but we can stick our fingers in the dyke.

Pilots have been using specialty headphones that decrease low-frequency aircraft noise while still allowing them to hear high- and middle-frequency sounds, like air traffic controller instructions or cabin warnings. In recent years, they have become affordable, and quite popular, in consumer models. You can own your own little solitude in the form of noise diminishing headphones: tune in to your music and turn off the rest of the world.

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