I feel a bit behind on the trend here, but I finally got a pair of noise cancelling headphones.
When I first started reading about the ways other autistic people handle sensory issues in everyday life, earplugs & headphones were pretty constant. Specifically noise-cancelling headphones. I found a recommendation for earplugs (etymotic earplugs, dunno a specific model), and decided to try them out. These are cool because you can still kind of hear human voices, but mostly they dull everything else. I wear them for live concerts (and sometimes bars), which are too loud for me to enjoy otherwise.
I can’t actually wear them regularly though, being cut off from basic noises actually disorients me more. I get hyper-anxious about where my body is, where other people are, and whether people will bump into me. (For similar reasons I can’t wear regular headphones while doing things either, which is very annoying. I would love to listen to music or podcasts while walking or shopping, but… nope)
Anyway. So I never really wanted noise cancelling headphones – I thought that if I found earplugs disorienting, a total lack of noise would be even worse.
Then I noticed how loud I was turning up my headphones on planes, and how many planes I’ve been on this year. With 7 round-trips so far this year (5 of which were 5+hrs each way), I decided the investment would be worth it at least for that. I picked these Bose QuietComfort 20 based on this wirecutter review. They’re in-ear headphones, which work better for me as I wear glasses (over-ears push the arms of my glasses into my head, which gets sore after a while).
I just got back from trip #7, and used the headphones there & back… and what a difference! Airplanes are loud! I didn’t realize what a good job the noise-cancelling was doing until I took them off to go to the bathroom, and almost jumped at the noise. Another interesting thing no one really says about noise-cancelling (or maybe it’s just a feature of the Bose?) – it doesn’t just block all noise. In addition to the active background-noise filtering, it also lets through human voices. The reason this is so mind-blowing to me is that this is the first trip where I could actually understand the announcements and flight attendants (mostly). Usually I can’t filter out voices from the plane-noise, but the headphones are designed to do that for me.
It was great. These are definitely going with me on every trip. I have a train-trip this weekend and I’ll see how they do there too 🙂
They’ve also already been useful off planes, too. The trip I got back from was work-related, with presentations for our entire company (probably 500 people in a room). For some reason, there were very loud videos playing while everyone got settled, and they weren’t relevant to anything, so everyone just talked over them… cue very loud, honestly overwhelming room. I popped in my headphones, and even when the relevant videos started (still too loud), I could clearly understand them because the noise-cancelling filtered out the background and toned down the volume to tolerable. 👍🏻
I still won’t be able to use them while doing things, but they’ll cut down on overwhelming situations and that’s worth it for me.