My first ever flying lesson was a blast! I was having such a good time that I didn’t even notice all the little details of things that were going on in and around me. That day was definitely sensory overload. I highly recommend it to anyone. I will always remember the excitement I felt as my instructor had me take the yoke and guide my Cessna 172 over the earth at 2,500 feet. I made such gentle turns because I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t want anything to go wrong. Nothing did go wrong and when I got home that day, I was still full of adrenaline but I was also exhaust. It was a 45 minute flight and I was wiped out. It took me a while but I learned why it took a lot out of me.
Before the flight, I was given a headset. I was told to plug it in and put it on so my CFI and I could communicate with each other and the tower while we flew around. For the next two months, the same thing happened. I got to the airport, I planned a lesson with my instructor, I was given a headset and away we went. After a few months of flying lessons at Fullerton Airport, I ask my instructor Ben why things were so loud in an airplane. I explained that, yeah it is noisy in a commercial airplane but not like this. That’s when he taught me the difference in quality of headsets.
I found out that day that there are two major types of headsets. The first is passive noise reduction and the other is active noise reduction. Passive headsets simply block out noise because they cup the ears and there’s a wall of protection between you and the noise. However, that coverage is limited. These are lower cost headsets and very common. The ANR headsets are considerably more expensive, require a power source (typically batteries) and reduce the noise level in your ears significantly more than passive ones.
I asked my CFI to borrow his just to try them out. He had a pair of Zulu 3 by Lightspeed and they always looked great. When I tried them on, I immediately realized what I had been missing out on. We were in mid-flight and it seemed like all of the noise just washed away. The decibel level went way down and my ears immediately started to thank me.
That’s when I realized about how the background hum of the engine and the passing wind really takes a toll on you. It seems to sap all of your energy to be exposed to loud noise for long periods. Not to mention, I’m always worried about damaging my hearing. I went online that day and bought the same headset that my flight instructor was using and I have been flying with it ever since. It’s like flying first class. Once you try it, you never want to go back! I can now sustain four hour flights with no exhaustion level compared to the 45 minutes from before.
There are several brands of ANR headsets to choose from and they vary in price from $450 to $1100. It’s a steep price to pay for a student pilot but well worth every penny to protect your hearing and really bring out the enjoyment of your flight lessons. Two of the top brands to search for are Bose and Lightspeed. Personal preference on comfort and design will influence your choice.
If you haven’t tried ANR headsets before, ask your instructors to try on theirs. I guarantee they are wearing them!