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Headsets and ear plugs?


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#1 mrkik

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Posted 22 October 2011 - 22:29

Hi, I am a student pilot with around 7 hours in an R22. Right now I am just borrowing the schools headsets until I can afford my own. Even though the noise is not that significant in these little helicopters, it is still loud. More for my comfort, I have heard of people using ear plugs to help with the noise. ( http://www.faa.gov/p...ng_brochure.pdf )

If I have ear plugs in my ears with the headset over them, how will I be able to hear the radio at all? That is my main question. Has any body tried this before?

Thanks, I really appreciate the help. If you have, do you have any advice? Such as what type of ear plugs to get, etc?

#2 Death2Daleks

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Posted 24 October 2011 - 12:22

Double hearing protection - always. How I was taught in the Navy to keep my hearing.

The ear plugs kill all the surrounding turbine/jet/prop noise. The headset helps double that protection.

In order to hear, you just turn up your radios until they're comfortable.

#3 Hawkeye0001

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Posted 24 October 2011 - 14:26

I'm flying with earplugs for quite some time now, it really helps. No probs with the radio, as a matter of fact I can understand the radio a lot better without all the other noise. I can certainly tell the difference when leaving them out: I have a serious buzzing sound in my ears after 6hrs of flying.
I know a couple guys that got custom made earplugs molded. Just ask any acoustician to do it for you. They don't come cheap ($100) but they're well worth it.

#4 gary-mike

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Posted 24 October 2011 - 14:55

I have never tried the custom molded ones, but I haven't had much discomfort from the soft tapered disposable ones. The old yellow foam cylinder ones and the rubber tripple flange ones bother me after a bit though. Just a thought if you don't want to spend the $100, although if you use them for hours every day the custom may be worth it like Hawkeye said. Another thing I have saw some AF pilots do is using the old yellow foamiesbut not really inserting them in the ear canal, rather they put them in sidewaysin the ear opening. I am guessing the thought was it blocked some of the noise but not quite as much. This was fighter jocks though, and I know from experience the cockpit of a fighter is much quieter than flying in a heli with the doors off, so I don't know if I would try it.

Edited by gary-mike, 24 October 2011 - 15:04.


#5 Wally

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Posted 24 October 2011 - 14:59

Hi, I am a student pilot with around 7 hours in an R22. Right now I am just borrowing the schools headsets until I can afford my own. Even though the noise is not that significant in these little helicopters, it is still loud. More for my comfort, I have heard of people using ear plugs to help with the noise. ( http://www.faa.gov/p...ng_brochure.pdf )

If I have ear plugs in my ears with the headset over them, how will I be able to hear the radio at all? That is my main question. Has any body tried this before?

Thanks, I really appreciate the help. If you have, do you have any advice? Such as what type of ear plugs to get, etc?


Try it and if you can't hear with the ear plugs in, pull'em out. Easy to do, I fly with ear plugs all the time. My recollection is that before ANR, the ear plug/headset combo was the recommended method. Ear plugs are more effective against high freq and the a muff was more more effective against low freq, you get both in helos.

Just a pilot (retired, so I have a LOT of time)...


#6 r22butters

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Posted 24 October 2011 - 16:48

If I have ear plugs in my ears with the headset over them, how will I be able to hear the radio at all? That is my main question. Has any body tried this before?


The first time I tried wearing plugs with my headset I had trouble hearing the radio, so I cut them in half,...problem solved. :)

I just use the regular ear plugs you find in drugstores (not the orange/yellow tappered ones, they go in too far, and hurt my ears).
The only dream I have left is to live long enough to see the pilot shortage. Its been about fifteen years since they first told me it was coming, so,...

Aaaaaaaany day now! :D

#7 mrkik

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Posted 26 October 2011 - 14:52

Thank you for the help! I think I will try to figure some things out. $700 noise-cancellation headsets don't fit my budget right now, but $3 ear plugs do!

One other question, what sunglasses do you recommend? Obviously this depends on the pilot, but the sunglasses I'm using right now make my headset louder because they ruin the seal over my ear.

#8 Tarantula

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Posted 26 October 2011 - 18:38

Non-polarized sunglasses. That's the biggest thing. Polarized ones can cause glass cockpits or GPS/other display screens to be unreadable.

#9 500F

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Posted 02 November 2011 - 17:53

Get something that gives you good periphial vision. I like either wraparounds or aviators. I have persciption Maui Jim's that work great

#10 jimbo2181

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Posted 10 November 2011 - 14:17

Maui Jims titanium glass are what I could works best. Yes the polarized lens can block lcd screens but most manufactures put the screen on an angle so you can still see it. If not tilt your head 5 degrees and you'll be able to read it fine.
Why oh why didn't I take the blue pill

#11 Rotorhead84

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 01:12

Try it and if you can't hear with the ear plugs in, pull'em out. Easy to do, I fly with ear plugs all the time. My recollection is that before ANR, the ear plug/headset combo was the recommended method. Ear plugs are more effective against high freq and the a muff was more more effective against low freq, you get both in helos.



I've always considered earplugs a must!

Edited by Rotorhead84, 13 November 2011 - 02:27.


#12 avbug

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Posted 16 November 2011 - 15:46

Earplugs under a headset or helmet won't prevent your hearing and understanding the communications. You can always turn them up a bit.

Numerous options are available for cockpit communications. Different choices work well for different people. You can put together a good passive headset for not a lot of money. While David Clark has by far the best warranty and customer service when it comes to passive clamp-style headsets, you can turn a lot of those same style headsets into better ones by using the Oregon Aero upgrade kit. It includes a wider sheep wool headband, earseals that mold to your head in response to body heat, and dense foam inserts that go into the earcups to increase their noise attenuating ability. They'll be quieter offer more protection, and you'll be able to hear the communications better.

Wearing foam earplugs under the headset is never a bad idea. I prefer the basic yellow EAR plugs.

#13 aeroscout

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Posted 21 December 2011 - 00:08

I have a CEP mod. I chose it over ANR because ANR only masks the frequencies, it doesn't prevent hearing loss, at least the way I understand it like a CEP mod will.

#14 palmfish

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Posted 21 December 2011 - 15:33

I have a CEP mod. I chose it over ANR because ANR only masks the frequencies, it doesn't prevent hearing loss, at least the way I understand it like a CEP mod will.


What do you mean by "masks the frequencies?"

Sound is a mechanical wave. A wave either exists or it doesn't. ANR cancels the wave, thus making it no longer exist.

#15 aeroscout

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Posted 21 December 2011 - 16:18

What do you mean by "masks the frequencies?"

Sound is a mechanical wave. A wave either exists or it doesn't. ANR cancels the wave, thus making it no longer exist.


ANR senses a sound wave, and generates an opposite phase sound wave to cancel it, but there is a delay so that both waves are stimulating the eardrum and the cilia, at least the way I understand it. The brain senses the integration as much less noise than the original sound wave, but, the way I understand it, there is less hearing protection provided than by a CEP. If you have some reference to provide, I would be pleased to be better informed.

#16 palmfish

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Posted 21 December 2011 - 21:36

ANR senses a sound wave, and generates an opposite phase sound wave to cancel it, but there is a delay so that both waves are stimulating the eardrum and the cilia, at least the way I understand it. The brain senses the integration as much less noise than the original sound wave, but, the way I understand it, there is less hearing protection provided than by a CEP. If you have some reference to provide, I would be pleased to be better informed.


If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there, did it make a sound? ;)

There are numerous scientific studies and white papers written by people smarter than me that can explain the effectiveness of ANR. Just search the web...

#17 Wally

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Posted 22 December 2011 - 05:59

"ANR senses a sound wave, and generates an opposite phase sound wave to cancel it, but there is a delay so that both waves are stimulating the eardrum and the cilia"? If there's a "delay' in processing and generating, there can't be 2 waves. Once the second, out of phase wave is generated, it cancels the first. One would be exposed for a much reduced period.

Just a pilot (retired, so I have a LOT of time)...


#18 palmfish

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Posted 22 December 2011 - 10:12

The science behind ANR, though fascinating, is really moot in the discussion of hearing loss.

A sound wave is either there, or it isn't. If it's there, it has amplitude that mechanically travels through the inner ear and excites the cilia. The larger the amplitude, the louder the noise. If a sound is perceived as quiet, then it is low in amplitude and it cannot harm your hearing.

A loud noise, such as a helicopter, sounds loud if you are standing right next to it. If you stand 50 yards away, it sounds quieter (due primarily to propagation loss through the air). Now walk inside a building and close the door - the helicopter is even quieter now because a wall is absorbing and/or reflecting/scattering the pressure waves. None of these phenomena are "masking" sound. They are attenuating it.

ANR samples and cancels pressure waves with 180 degree out of phase noise, thus attenuating it.

Each method of noise attenuation has it's advantages and disadvantages. Walls and air attenuate high frequencies better than low frequencies because the wave length is shorter and more easily absorbed/scattered. ANR is more effective vs. low frequencies because the larger wavelength is easier for the DSP to sample and react to. Combine ANR with passive attenuation, and you have the best of both worlds.

Regardless of the method used to attenuate noise however, the end result is the same. Less sound = less risk of hearing loss.

#19 Gomer Pylot

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Posted 22 December 2011 - 12:09

What you need to look at is the NRR across the complete range of frequencies. Some devices suppress noise much more at some frequencies than others. ANR for example works much better at lower frequencies than at higher ones, because it's much harder to generate the opposite phase waves at very high frequencies, nearing 20,000 cycles per second. Using just ANR, you won't get as much high frequency protection as you need, and those are the frequencies that are most easily damaged. Any device sold for hearing protection in the US must show the NRR across the entire range of normal human hearing, and you should read it before buying. Turbine engines emit lots more high frequency noise than pistons, so you need to be aware of that if you are, or are planning to fly those.
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Best Regards,

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#20 aeroscout

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Posted 22 December 2011 - 16:08

Another excellent discussion of a topic.
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