I Can't Hear You: Perfect Headphones

I Can't Hear You: Perfect HeadphonesSonic relief from $50 to $400 -- or try $8 earplugs.When it comes to blocking ambient cabin noise, air travelers have three basic choices: an over-the-ear headset, an in-ear headset, or old-fashioned earplugs. Many of today's headsets come with noise-canceling technology, which blocks much of the noise produced by plane engines. You'll want to look at the specs before you buy, however, to ensure your prospective headset meets your needs. Also, remember that you will typically pay extra for noise-canceling features.

Below are some of the products currently available to passengers looking for relief from ambient noise.

Koss Porta Pro
If you don't like carrying bulky headphones on a plane, then the Porta Pro is one solution. These portable headphones are collapsible and also highly adjustable (choose from a firm to a light fit). Although they don't deliver noise-cancelation technology, the lower price and deep, rich bass are definite pluses. The headset also comes with a lifetime warranty.
Price: $50

Grado SR80i
The SR80i by Grado offers many of the features of an expensive headset — including a higher-frequency response — at an affordable price. You won't get noise-canceling technology, but this soft, well-ventilated headset breathes well on long flights, and the audio quality is very good for its price range. Reviewers rave about its harmonic color and smooth top end, but mostly they like the price.
Price: $99

Audio-Technica ATH -ANC23 QuietPoint
While most in-flight headsets are over-the-ear designs, a few offer comparable performance as an in-ear headset. The Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23 cancels up to 90 percent of background noise, and offers three types of soft ear pieces to ensure your comfort on long-haul flights. One of its best features is that it won't stop working if your battery dies. Instead, it will deliver uncanceled sound to your earbuds.
Price: $80

One of the limitations of conventional headphones is that they don't allow you to rest on your side — they get in the way. SleepPhones help you get around that problem. The earpieces are embedded in a soft headband, and can easily be worn on a long overnight flight. Although they don't feature noise-canceling technology, SleepPhones promise to block out most noises. Besides air travel, they have been credited with blocking the sound of loud snoring and saving a marriage or two.
Price: $40

AKG K 495 NC
For a more high-end, in-ear experience, the AKG K 495 NC is a standout. Like some other in-ear models, these also work when the battery is depleted. In addition to featuring noise-canceling technology, these are among the loudest in-ear headsets available. If you're an audiophile and want a crisp sound in an in-ear headset for occasional use on a plane, this one's a safe bet.
Price: $350

Sony MDR-NC500
Billed as the world's first digital noise-canceling headphones, the MDR-NC500 offers an "intelligent" noise-canceling system that hears the cabin noise and then selects the best of three modes to block as much noise as possible. The lightweight design allows you to wear these on extended flights without fatiguing, and a built-in monitor function lets you hear surrounding sound, like in-flight announcements, without taking them off.
Price: $400

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC9
This high-end headset is said to have one of the best noise-canceling capabilities on the market. Choose between three special noise-cancelation modes, from one optimized for airplanes, trains and buses to one designed for noisy offices or crowded places. It promises to strip out 95 percent of background noise and is also comfortable, making it ideally suited to lengthy trips.
Price: $350

Sennheiser PXC 450
These are perhaps the largest of the high-end noise-canceling headsets, but they fold into a small, compact case. The Sennheiser PXC 450 will also effectively block most of the engine noise on your next flight — up to 95 percent of the ambient sound. In addition, these headphones feature a "talk through" function that lets you communicate with your seatmate or a crewmember while wearing them.
Price: $350

Creative Aurvana In-Ear3
For an in-ear experience that doesn't break the bank but also speaks to your inner audiophile, the Aurvana In-Ear3 might work. With a tweeter and woofer on each side, it promises to bring out the clarity and detail in your music or mixes, using a special angled sound tube with acoustic partition channels. At the same time, it blocks 98 percent of the ambient sound around you.
Price: $150

Cirrus EarPlanes
Sometimes, the simplest solutions are best. A set of earplugs is a low-cost and effective way to deal with noise, although it will block virtually all sound — so if you want to watch the in-flight movie, you better be good at reading lips. EarPlanes, one of the most popular brands, come in sizes for adults and kids. They also feature a special filter that regulates airflow to prevent pressure build-up.
Price: $8