Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Headsets Buyer's Guide 2014: Smaller, Lighter And More Affordable

Pilots demand better comfort and affordability in headsets as the market expands further

Pilots may not realize it, but aside from the instruments, the most utilized cockpit item is the headset. Think about your last flight; everything that was communicated to or from your aircraft went through your headset. Consider the safety implications of that simple fact, and you can see why purchasing the right headset for yourself is critical. The encouraging news about headsets is that cost isn't directly related to effectiveness. While a $1,000 headset might be ideal for one cockpit, another might be more suited to a $200 headset. The key to selecting the right headset is to examine your own mission profile and applying the headset that best matches that profile.

We're in an age of unprecedented selection and features in headsets. Never before have we had so many choices at such low prices. The technology available today in ANR headsets and in condenser microphones was once the domain of high-end recording studios and wealthy audiophiles. Today, you can spend less than $100, and get better noise protection and audio fidelity (the quality of sound) than you would have 30 years ago for five times the price.

Several studies have concluded that hearing is second only to vision as a sensory mechanism to obtain critical information during the operation of an aircraft. Your sense of hearing makes it possible to perceive, process and identify the varied sounds affecting your aircraft. The FAA has spent much time and money researching noise in the cockpit in an effort to reduce the damage that comes from flying aircraft without hearing protection. Before we examine the current trends and technology advances in headsets, it's important to address the functions of aviation headsets and how they relate to hearing damage.

Hearing And Noise 101
Without going into excessive medical detail, humans "hear" sounds—which are waves of energy—as they're collected by the external ear from various sources. These waves travel into the ear canal and cause the eardrum to vibrate. This vibration is transmitted mechanically to the cochlea, which causes a pressure wave in the fluid inside the cochlea. That fluid moves minute hair-like receptors that line the walls of the cochlea (called "stereo cilia"), similar to how the wind moves a field of wheat. The movement of those tiny sensors produces an electrical signal that's transmitted to the brain via the auditory nerve. The brain identifies that signal as a particular kind of sound.

All sounds have three distinct qualities: frequency, intensity and duration. Frequency is the number of oscillations per second in a sound wave; frequency is also related to the "pitch" of a sound. High-pitched sounds possess a high number of wave oscillations per second. Frequency is measured in hertz (Hz). Intensity is the apparent "loudness" or volume of a sound and is measured in decibels (dB). Lastly, duration is the length of time a sound wave is active for. Hearing damage is a function of all three sound qualities.

Labels: HeadsetsBest Buys

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