Understanding How Aviation Headsets Reduce Noise

By Chris Spears

Purchasing aviation headsets is a crucial step in protecting your hearing and flying safely, especially in smaller aircraft. Some people simply choose by reputation, buying either a Telex headset or Peltor headset because these are well-known brands popular in the aviation industry, but it isnt that simple.

Both brands produce quality products, but they also each offer a variety of headsets that work in different ways and may suit different needs. To choose the right style and model of aviation headset, you need to first understand what the manufacturers are talking about when they describe how their products work.

Both Telex and Peltor headsets come in a wide range of styles that offer varying levels of hearing protection. In fact, each offers different types of hearing protection as well. The three types are usually referred to as Passive Noise Reduction, Active Noise Reduction and Digital Noise Reduction. Some people refer to noise reduction as noise attenuation, but the terms are interchangeable.


Passive Noise Reduction These are sometimes referred to as NNR headsets, and are the least expensive. They use insulation and thick padding to cut down on cockpit noise. The earphones are designed to create a tight seal around the ears. With these, youll receive about 25 decibels of noise reduction. Most of this will be high-frequency noise.

Active Noise Reduction Like NNR, active noise reduction (ANR) headsets use insulation to protect hearing. In addition, there is an electronic signal that cancels out incoming noise to provide noise reduction in the low-frequency range. The electronic signal is not an audible sound, but a frequency pulse that matches incoming sound as an opposite signal. Quality ANR Peltor Headsets can provide up to 30 decibels of noise reduction depending on the brand.

Digital Noise Reduction The most expensive option also gives you the most protection because it adds a final level of protection beyond even ANR. In these, electronics monitor the actual surrounding sounds and mimic them with opposing signals to cancel the noise. Telex headsets and most other quality brands also feature a filtering system that prevents cancellation of non-repeating noises so that the wearer will be aware of changes in engine sound that could signal an emergency. Digital noise reduction provides the most protection in the mid-frequency ranges.

You should find out what decibel level of noise you are going to routinely be exposed to before shopping for any kind of aviation headset. (Smaller aircraft generally produce more noise than larger craft, and any prop plane will be significantly louder in the cockpit than a jet airplane) This will help guide you in your choice, since all Telex headsets and Peltor headsets clearly indicate the level of decibel protection provided.

You will also want to consider the type of microphone you prefer, the fit of the ear cups and other factors. If you visit aviation supply websites, you can also download detailed specifications for any number of headsets, including the most popular brands such as Peltor and Telex headsets; so that you can compare features side by side to find out which ones best suit your needs.

About the Author: Chris is an avid flyer. He loves small planes and enjoys working on his planes. He recommends visiting


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