Advantages of using aviation headsetsPosted On: Nov-14-2016  By: Bob Fadi

Advantages of using aviation headsets

Aviation headsets are just like gaming headsets on a computer except they are much more expensive. Basically, at the end of the spectrum, an aviation headset is just a big clamp style pair of around the ear headphones that comes with a microphone. The cable from the headset has 2 plugs ( one for airplanes) and the other plug (for helicopters). These two plug styles are equal electronically. The helicopter cable has an extra conductor that combines the microphone and headphones  together in a similar plug. The two-plug variant has one plug for the headphones and another for the microphone. However, these differ from gaming headsets. The headphone plug is  0.25" -the type a nice stereo receiver works with and  the microphone plug is about 0.206".

  • Aviation headsets fall into two broad categories namely:
  • Passive aviation headsets
  • Active aviation headsets

The passive noise reduction headsets rely on a good seal for the ears with well-built clamps like that of David Clarks. On the other hand, active noise reduction is somewhat less fastened. They provide less passive protection but make up for this with the active protection. Usually, an ANR headset is quite expensive, but these do top out at around $850-$1000 for the top models from Light speed and Bose respectively. Active noise reduction (ANR) headsets need power to work properly. However, ANR headsets can still function without power just like the passive noise reducing headsets. Power for an ANR headset may come from a battery box or from aircraft power. It should not be used interchangeably. Aircraft power works together with the panel installation of a plug specific to the headset brand ( i.e. a single connector provides power, head phones and microphone connections). Generally speaking, unless you happen to own an airplane and install the power plug, you should get the battery version of a headset.

Passive headsets generally advertise noise decreasing around 20 dB (23 dB for the venerable David Clarks). Some so people will wear earplugs under a headset to further increase the passive noise reduction.  One look at ANR headsets indicate that they tend not to advertise their performance. This specifies maximum ambient noise levels for ANR to properly function (probably around 120-125dB for Bose and Lightspeed headsets).

The primary purpose of these headsets is noise reduction in the cockpit (they can be very loud) in order to avoid partial or total deafness. It is also required to facilitate clearer communication. For quieter airplanes, there are a range of in-ear easy to use headsets that have earbuds than the 
larger headsets. Some of these are just earplugs built for only sounds while others use molds of your ear to provide the seal. Aviation headsets do not necessarily need approval for use in airplanes, but in some situations for US registered aircraft, the requirement of an approved headset can be mandated.

The FAA standards for approval are specified in TSO C-57a and C-58a. Virtually all aviation headsets conform to these orders. For smaller airplanes you will have to wear the headset from beginning to finish. Headsets are not technically required equipment but small aircraft cockpits are somewhat noisy so hearing protection is a comfort issue for the pilot (and passengers alike). Depending on where the pilot flying to, the ability to communicate by radio may be required (for example, through controlled airspace near an airport). On newer ANR headsets in particular, you are likely to find some extra features beyond a pair of headphones and a microphone. These extras include a 3.5 mm auxiliary jack to be linked with external music and Bluetooth that connects your phone or other devices to the headset. While all aviation headsets may serve the same basic functions, the more advanced ones have other characteristics as well. Common features include Bluetooth, a cell phone /music player, volume control, an aux input jack specifically made to connect to a wired audio source or cell phone, and an auto-mute feature that will disable the music source when radio communication is being received. These typically come with circuitry to automatically voice mute or greatly decrease the volume of these inputs when ATC is on transmission.