I’m not going to sugar coat it: Flying sucks. The hell of getting to the airport, TSA screaming at you to take your shoes off, endless delays, the sad food selection (with the exception of free Biscoff cookies), turbulence—the list goes on. The light at the end of the tunnel is the relief of arriving at your destination, but for many of us, the joyful experience of emerging out of the gate is sometimes a bit muted, painful, and tense with pressure. Folks, I’m alluding to airplane ear, yet another example of flying misery.
You might be thinking, what the hell is airplane ear? Well, I’m here to educate you, if you’re one of the blessed ones who doesn’t regularly experience it (or might just not know the name for it). The condition’s medical name is ear barotrauma, which refers to the stress your eardrums encounter when the air pressure in your middle ear is out of whack with the pressure in the surrounding environment. This often happens when a plane rapidly climbs and descends during takeoff and landing. Chewing gum is a common remedy, as the movement of your jaw can help unclog your Eustachian tubes (the passages that help to equalize ear pressure), but that’s never worked for me.
After a long flying hiatus during the height of the pandemic, I flew to Nashville, Tennessee for some much needed mechanical bull action. During the descent, I was in immense ear pain and had hearing loss for hours afterward. (It was alarming enough that I almost walked into an urgent care clinic—I’m not a fan of doctors’ visits on vacation, so that should tell you how desperate I was.) I knew I needed a solution before my flight home, so I took to Reddit to seek out some sound medical advice (LOL). The consensus was that noise-canceling headphones were a game-changer for fellow sufferers of airplane ear, so I picked up a pair that has changed my travel life forever: the Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones.
The Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones are plushy, noise-canceling, over-ear headphones that block out all sorts of air travel annoyances—including roaring engines and screaming babies. You can jet off (silently) into the sunset by flipping the noise-canceling switch on the side of the headphones, and the adjustable EQ lets you set the levels for all your fave travel jams. When I first tried them, I felt like I was in a high-end recording studio watching Snoop Dogg lay tracks. They have a premium feel, and are sleek, slightly voluptuous in all the right places, and have pillow-soft ear cushioning, on top of looking like you are about to record your next hit single. On to the noise-cancellation and ear-pressure-relieving properties: Both my head and ears experienced zero pain while wearing them. Besides on flights, Bose and I have also hit the city streets during my daily stomps using aware mode, which allows you to hear your surroundings and is an essential function when living in New York City—people can be creepy. They’re also useful for providing high-quality audio during workouts, although I prefer small earbuds for high-octane activity. Need to hunker down and hyperfocus for work? You won’t hear a peep or anyone nagging you while you are grinding away in the cafe. “Hey girl, is this seat taken? May I buy you a vanilla bean frappe with no whip?” LMAO, sorry Brad can’t hear you, and wrong order.
Other pluses of these headphones: They feature Bluetooth connectivity, 24-hour battery life on a single charge, and the ability to take calls with its built-in microphone. They also charge easily through USB-C or a USB port, and with a 4.5-star average rating on Bose’s website, these headphones are apparently a godsend for lots of others besides just me. They’re especially praised for their super-effective noise cancellation. “My first day with these new babies, I jumped and turned around because the song I was listening to had a whisper in it, and I thought that someone was behind me,” one reviewer writes. “Coworkers have yelled my name across the office and I have been peacefully oblivious to it.”
TL;DR: I was never a huge fan of over-ear headphones because of the bulkiness, and I’ve been hooked on earbuds for quite some time, but they don’t match up to the QuietComfort 45s when it comes to saving my precious ears during a flight. Bose is known for making headphones that slap, but the QuietComfort 45s and I have bonded during flights, walks, work, and especially when I’m trying to ignore people. Noise-canceling technology is easy to find these days, but Bose just does it ~different~.
The Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones are available for purchase on Bose’s website.
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