How noise cancelling headphones make air travel better

Flying is full of headaches, but noise cancelling headphones might just be the cure.

Woman wearing Bose QuietComfort Headphones outside

Wherever you’re going, you can count on an airplane to get you there quickly. But not quietly.

This reality struck Dr. Amar Bose during a flight from Zurich to Boston in 1978. Airlines had been providing in-flight audio through pneumatic headphones since 1963, but they were gradually transitioning to electronic ones. Dr. Bose, eager to experience this audio upgrade, found himself disappointed. Electronic headphones could deliver superior sound to fliers, but airplane cabins were too noisy to hear it.

But then, Dr. Bose had an audio epiphany: Using basic physics, he conceived of a headset that uses a microphone to detect external noise, and electronics to generate an equal and opposite signal that cancels it out before it reaches the listener’s eardrums. Thus, the first pair of noise cancelling headphones was born.



Sound solutions for air travel

Today, there’s an arsenal of noise cancelling headphones and earbuds for travel available in all shapes and sizes. And while they can’t cancel the ill-mannered seat kicker behind you or the smell of the fish burrito in row 34, they are perfectly suited for solving four common air-travel problems.

Problem 1: Cabin noise

The relentless hum of an aircraft cabin, a blend of engines, air, and wind, prompted Dr. Bose’s invention of noise cancelling headphones. Now, on any given flight, you’ll spot them as commonly as laptops and coffee cups. Bose QuietComfort Headphones and Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones not only vanquish cabin clamor but also deliver premium sound. Plug them into the plane’s entertainment system via an auxiliary cable for crystal-clear music, movies, shows, and podcasts, all without cranking up the volume. In your own auditory haven, even if your neighbor gets a bit too close, you’ll be in bliss. Just a heads-up: when you take them off, the cabin volume might be a shock.

If you’re into true wireless in-ear earbuds, pack Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds for immersive audio and noise cancellation that rivals over-ear models. With a battery life ready for flights under 6 hours, they’re a reliable travel companion. For longer journeys, a 20-minute charge gives you an extra 2 hours. Note, though, that current planes lack Bluetooth-enabled systems, so make sure to pre-download your entertainment for smooth, non-stop streaming.

Problem 2: Chatty seat neighbors

Travel agency Agoda asked more than 10,000 global travelers what they found to be the most annoying travel habits — the top pet peeve is noisy passengers.


Since you can’t predict your seat mate’s chattiness level, pack your trusty noise cancelling headphones. They send a clear signal that you’re in the zone, not for small talk. Even if your neighbor decides to chat, all you’ll hear is your music, movies, and podcasts.


However, there are voices you should tune in, like the pilot or flight attendants. This is where adjustable noise cancellation levels come in handy. QuietComfort Ultra Headphones, QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds, and Bose QuietComfort Headphones come equipped with Aware Mode, so you can hear your surroundings with a single touch.

Woman wearing Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones

Problem 3: Stress from flying

Flight anxiety is real. According to the Association of America, 20 percent of the US population are so afraid of flying that they avoid it altogether. If you have a flying phobia, consider noise cancelling headphones. They do a great job of creating personal pockets of quiet space. They also make your music sound lifelike. This important combination can make noise cancelling headphones a great option for people dealing with stress.


According to this 2019 article, music can “cause the heart rate to slow down” and, in the process, lower your breathing rate and level of emotional distress. And in a 2017 study, British neuroscientists likewise found that one particular piece of music can diminish anxiety by up to 65 percent.


Music and nature aren’t your only option. Because they have Bluetooth® connectivity, you also can use Bose noise cancelling headphones and earbuds to listen to mobile apps, such as Headspace, that walk you through breathing exercises or even guided-meditation sessions.


Person wearing Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds

Problem 4: Trouble relaxing

An airplane cabin is a symphony of sounds, from announcements to rustling snack bags. Finding serenity in this environment can be a challenge. But with noise cancelling headphones, you can transform this auditory landscape into your private sanctuary.


However, it’s not just about what you block out; it’s also about what you let in. The Bose Music app makes it easy to control your music. Tap into the in-flight Wi-Fi® to stream a soothing station from your favourite streaming music service. Or choose a relaxing playlist from your own music library.


Also, comfort is key. QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds feature advanced eartip technology that keeps them firmly but gently in place while you unwind. No matter how long your flight is, you can wear them without any discomfort.


However you want to spend your time in the clouds — taking a nap, watching a movie, or just relaxing in audio solitude — noise cancelling headphones or earbuds can help you do it.

Woman dancing wearing Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones

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