Maximum Hearing Protection Options (earplugs + headset?)
Votes
Open

I've been using a Lightspeed Sierra ANR headset since I got my ticket in 2018 with good results. However, I've recently been diagnosed with minor to intermediate hearing loss in some high frequency ranges. My problem (including tinitus) dates back prior to flying, but it's getting worse and I want to do everything I can to keep what hearing I have (currently do not need hearing aids, but it's probably a couple of years out if I stay on this path).

Even with the Sierra headset I've noticed my ears ringing after a recent 2.5 hr flight in a 182Q ('78) that I often fly. I think this is a good headset, but clearly there are better (Zulu 3 & Bose A20), but I'm not convinced that upgrade will help. 

Anyone else hit a similar situation? What helped?

I think I'm going to try out wearing high quality earplugs under the Sierra and see if it seems to help.

9 Replies
Votes

I am no audiologist (nor do I play one on TV) but I used to do this for every flight and it absolutely does reduce the noise level. How much, I do not know, but I have heard claims that it is the dB reduction of the headset + the dB reduction of the ear plugs. I think that is referred to as NRR, or noise reduction rating.

When I was instructing full time, 125 hours of flight time per month was the norm, and hearing protection was paramount. I would routinely insert the ear plugs and then slip on the David Clark's. I went through many dozens of pairs of those yellow EAR plugs, but my hearing is as good today as it was then, so it must have worked.

Votes
Thanks Daddis At AOPA‍ I appreciate the experience! I’m surprised you could hear ATC/student with standard plugs installed; I’m going to try that tomorrow, but I have the “filter” type plugs on order that allow voice transmission while still blocking out loud noises.
Votes

Surprisingly, I never had an issue hearing ATC or my student in regular conversation. Maybe that in itself is odd, but it was never a problem. Voices only had to clear the ear plugs, not the headset, since that's where they came from.

Votes

The problem with passive noise reduction like earplugs is that they dampen all sound even inside the ear cups. So it might be harder to hear radio communications. I would look for a higher quality ANR headset like a Lightspeed Zulu 3, Bose A20 or David Clark DC One-X. I have hearing aids and a Lightspeed Zulu 3. They work well together although I have to put the Starkey hearing aids into AI-driven “Edge” mode for maximum clarity.

Votes

Thanks for the feedback! I'm considering a new pair of A20s, just a little hesitant to spend $1.1K on a new headset when my current one seems good… but even if it's a 5% improvement over the Sierra, it's worth it to save hearing even a touch.

Votes

I wear Starkey hearing aids as well, but haven’t heard of an Edge mode? I have a custom setting that boosts high freq when needed and have the feedback control increased by tech to work in ear cups.

Thanks for sharing…