In-Ear vs. Over-Ear Pilot Headsets: Which Is Right for You?

Posted by Erika T. on Jul 7th 2022

A good aviation headset is one of the most precious pieces of equipment a pilot can have, so you should never skimp when it comes to your headset. Headsets are crucial for blocking out the noise of your plane and allowing for communication with air traffic control, and you’ll be wearing your headset for as long as you’re in the air, so the right set is integral to your safety. So, when choosing a headset that is right for you, what differences do you need to consider between in-ear versus over-ear pilot headsets?

Noise Reduction

Noise reduction is an important factor because the roaring engines of your plane can be deafening—quite literally so on some models. Over-ear headsets are a lot like wearing earmuffs in that the sound of everything around you seems muffled, and the device does a good enough job protecting your hearing. If you want some true quiet, however, in-ear headsets go straight to your ear canal, blocking out as much noise as possible because they completely fill the space of the canal. While in-ear headsets are typically more effective at canceling the most noise, some people think they feel unnatural or strange.

ANR vs. PNR

Though this still pertains to noise reduction, one of the primary features you’ll need to choose between is active noise reduction and passive noise reduction. Active noise reduction uses microphones and speakers that pick up any noise and creates a “replica” of the sound that cancels out anything unwanted. So, for instance, you’ll be able to hear speech and changes in the engine, but white noise like propellers is filtered out.

Passive noise reduction is a bit simpler, as it doesn’t use any extra microphone or speaker technology. Instead, your headset, whether over-ear or in-ear, uses a seal that physically blocks out any noise that isn’t coming directly through your headset. How effective passive noise reduction is can vary depending on how tight the seal is.

Comfort

Comfort varies from person to person, depending on how sensitive their ears are. Over-ear flight headsets are popular because the large cushioning is most comfortable for longer periods of time. Others, however, find in-ear headphones to be more comfortable because they’re much lighter and aren’t constantly pressing against their ears. When determining whether in-ear versus over-ear pilot headphones are more comfortable, you should try both kinds to consider what feels more comfortable and natural for you. Furthermore, you should consider what kind of flights you’ll be doing in the future, as comfort becomes especially important for pilots flying long hours cross-country.

When it comes down to it, the type of aviation headset you choose depends entirely on your preferences. Making the effort to try out both kinds will help you make an informed decision and ensure you have the best headset on hand while you’re up in the air.