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There’s no way around it – hearing protection on small aircraft is absolutely necessary for everyone, but even more so for small children and infants. Small children have smaller ear canals, and therefore sound pressure is greater on them. Simply put, what is loud to us is even louder to them. Noise induced hearing loss happens very gradually over time, and children shouldn’t have prolonged exposure to the noises of the airplane without protection.
Because headset choice is the top question about flying with kids (along with car seats), I wanted to make this a detailed discussion. If you are here for advice on which aviation headset to get for a child in your airplane, this article will help you sort through the options. First let’s make a checklist of things to ask yourself, so that you may navigate more thoughtfully through the features mentioned.
- Do you need a full working headset or hearing protection only?
- Would you prefer the headset to have passive or active noise reduction?
- Do you prefer Bluetooth capabilities for electronics?
- Are you fitting a small child or an older child head size?
- Do you have a brand that you use, and prefer the family to have the same brand?
- How often will the child be flying?
- How long will the child typically be flying/wearing the headset ?
- Do you prefer a premium set, or do you only need a budget set?
Generally, a good fit for a child includes:
- A headband that adjusts to small length
- A lighter overall headset
- Ear cups that do not sit too far down on the jaw line
Now that you are thinking about those things, I’ve put together some options to explore for your child headset purchase. We will start with infant and toddler hearing protection, and then move on to aviation headsets. This list is based on current market offerings that have features beneficial to children. If we own the headset, I will also share photos of my children wearing them.
One last thing to consider before we start! In my own opinion, the “perfect” youth aviation headset would have a smaller band, comfy ear cups, Active Noise Reduction, Bluetooth, a shortened mic boom, and weigh less than 13 ounces. If this sounds good to you too, just know that unfortunately this doesn’t exist as a single package. But some come very close! You will have to decide which features to prioritize. Don’t be surprised to see adult sets featured, as two of the top aviation headset companies do not have a youth model.
Hearing Protection Sets for Infants
Many new parents are searching for hearing protection for infants as they introduce their baby to the exciting world of aviation. The good news is this selection is easily navigated when they are under 15 months old. Babies don’t yet need the distractions of electronics, and they don’t need a microphone. In this case we don’t need to look to the aviation market, and can explore any hearing protection earmuff. You can also use these options for young toddlers and for outdoor aviation events. I strongly discourage the use of ear plugs for infants or toddlers because they pose such a dangerous choking hazard.
These earmuffs advertise an industry leading Noise Reduction Rating of 28 decibels. They are extremely lightweight at 5 ounces, and have a large comfortable ear cup so it doesn’t squish little ears. The foam pad on the band keeps the headset in place, and doesn’t put pressure on the top of the head. Baby Banz’s age range is from 0-2+ years, and these are the highest rated baby earmuffs on Amazon. They come in many cute color and pattern choices. Click here to view. These are my top choice for infant hearing protection for aviation use.
Both of my kids have loved wearing these since they were infants. Although they now wear an aviation headset inside the aircraft, we still use Baby Banz at airport events and otherwise. (My 4 year old daughter recently upgraded to the Kids Banz size.) They really do adjust to the size of a small baby head, and I highly recommend trying them out. The only thing to consider is if baby is still using the head insert in an infant bucket seat, be sure that any earmuffs fit while in the seat.
ALPINE MUFFY BABY
If you have your heart set on infant earmuffs with a strap instead of a band, these come from a reputable Dutch hearing protection company. These earmuffs claim to have a Noise Reduction Rating up to 26 decibels and the product weighs 5.9 ounces. The band is worn at the front of the head and seems to me like it would work best on young infants without much hair. However the product age range covers young toddlers as well. The velcro straps are adjustable, and claim to not put pressure on the baby’s head due to the style. Offered in both pink and blue, Click here to view. One thing to consider with this product style is that it comes with a safety warning. This warning states it should only be worn for a maximum of 90 minutes at a time, and for a total of 3 hours per day. While this might work for short trips or outdoor aviation events, if you have a longer flight planned this should be taken into account.
Aviation Headsets for Children
Here we will take a look at a headset from each of aviation’s top three brands. We will discuss how they translate for use on children only. Remember, most brands do not make a dedicated youth headset. If you own an aircraft and your children will be flying frequently or on longer flights, I do recommend going premium. You’ll get to see what each headset looks like on my 2 and 4 year old, which will provide a beneficial visual. (Listed in alphabetical order.)
This premium headset comes with Active Noise Reduction, and advertises 30 percent less clamping force than conventional aviation headsets. This is due in part to the hinge in the center of the headband. As you can see in the picture below, it is more low profile than other headsets. This headset weighs in at 12 ounces, and it’s the lightest on this list. It also comes with Bluetooth Audio and active equalization, so the kids can connect to their tablets with enhanced sound clarity. Instead of a pad, they offer a contoured wool cushion under the band for comfort. I don’t think the wool is quite enough to keep it in place on a squirmy child. My kids frequently use this headset, and the positives are hearing protection, entertainment audio, and overall weight. The set stays in place when the kids are mostly still, but slips forward or back otherwise because they simply weren’t designed for small children.
As great as this headset is, I’m not entirely sold on kids comfort. My 4 year old complains a lot about her ears once a half hour passes. I also believe the hinge and wool pad (an otherwise nice feature) isn’t the best for smaller kids. A wider or padded band would act as leverage to hold up the ear cups on a small head. Perhaps if the band adjusted to a smaller length this wouldn’t be an issue- but I can only comment on the current configuration. At the end of the day these can work for smaller kids, but it’s not the most comfortable. I believe it would be better suited for an older child. You will of course pay a premium price for this headset if you are willing to invest in a child’s pair to match yours. Click here to view. If you don’t want to spend the money all at once, Amazon offers this headset with a monthly payment option, and no interest or fees.
DAVID CLARK H10-13 and H10-13Y
Are you a fan of this classic aviation headset? I chose this model to focus on because it’s the model in which they have a (Y) youth configuration. This headset uses passive noise reduction and has a NRR of 23 decibels. The ear cup is quite different on this headset as they use comfort gel ear seals. The seals have a patented under cut design that provides more surface area contact with the head, which is comfy on small ears. Instead of a padded bar, it has a soft double foam headpad attached. The good news is they make a configuration in a youth model, which is very rare for a quality headset. Even better, the youth model can be upgraded to the full size version later. So, what exactly makes it a youth headset? The headset band is smaller, and the rest stays the same. The adult kit upgrade is a headband and stirrup assembly that gets switched out when the time comes. The adult version comes in just over 1 pound, and the youth band only shaves off 0.5 ounces to weigh exactly 1 pound. I would have liked to see this lighter for a youth headset. Click here to view the Y model. Below my kids are pictured in the adult headband model, as I haven’t had a need to buy a youth headset in a passive version.
Both kids are wearing it at the smallest headband setting. It did stay put on my four year old quite well, but slipped around on my two year old’s head, so I can see how the youth band would likely make a huge difference. The smaller a band can go, the higher the ear cup will sit on the face which is very important. To note, they do make an electronic noise canceling headset, the DC-ONE-X. The One-X also has Bluetooth and is rated highly for comfort at only 12 ounces. I haven’t seen a picture of a small child wearing them, but they do appear to look pretty compact otherwise. If I get a chance to get them on the kids I will certainly update here!
Ding Ding Ding! Read on for The Family Airplane’s top pick. Perhaps you want the kids to have an ANR aviation headset that is a little less expensive, but still has premium qualities. Maybe you use Zulu’s which are a bit too big for your little one. For a little over 20 percent less cost than Zulu 3, comes the value priced Sierra. This headset has both ANR and Bluetooth, so kids can enjoy their own electronics on board. It boasts a unique reversible headband for right or left mic placement, so you can get the kids set up as needed. These come with a larger plush ear seal for tiny ears. The company advertises that the 10 square inches of surface area on the ear seal create a better distribution of side pressure. My daughter finds these the most comfortable on her ears, and the cup does not sit too low on their jaw. The headset band is generously padded and adjusts down to a very compact length. I’m calling this the best choice for kids aviation headset because of band length, ear cup size, band padding, Active Noise Reduction over a range of frequencies, and Bluetooth connectivity. And the price is a great mid range point in the premium market. This comes close to my wish list mentioned in the beginning other than it weighs in at 1 pound. However, I do feel the weight at the top of my head on the band, and not on my ears. So though I would prefer a lighter set for kids, I think the weight distribution is acceptable. Click here to view on Amazon.
If you compare pictures you can see that this is the overall widest headset on the kids, but that isn’t a bad thing after all. You’ll see that this set looks supported and lifted, versus long and heavy on the face. Interestingly enough, this headset was not designed specifically for, nor is it listed as a youth aviation headset at any retail points. So much so that we had two pair in another airplane, and I never really thought much to try them on the kids until recently. I’m so glad I did. I see it as a headset that can grow with the child because it obviously extends to an adult size. I think this headset would be a great choice for 18 months and up.
Budget Aviation Headsets for Children
Perhaps you have children or grandchildren that are only going to fly short flights to lunch once in a while. Maybe it really doesn’t make sense for you to invest in a more premium headset at this time. I wanted to include this section for you. Disclosure: As of now, I have never used the products in the below section, and so I can’t discuss actual fit. When you ask someone for a headset recommendation, they will of course tell you the one they use. However, it’s important to be familiar with more options out there in order to make a great choice! For now I will list the product details and provide links so you can check out reviews for yourself. The good news is these headsets are marketed specifically for children, and it’s nice to have companies acknowledge that need. Keep in mind that the less expensive headsets do not come with premium features like ANR or Bluetooth, and the audio qualities will not be comparable to a premium set.
PILOT USA PA-1151AC
According to the manufacturer, this was the first company to specifically design an aviation headset for children. I certainly applaud that! They were also willing to manufacture the set in pink. They do advertise a smaller headset band than the adult model. This is the only model I’ve seen that actually has a shorter mic boom, which is a very cool feature. The headset has a passive Noise Reduction Rating of 24 decibels and a 3.5mm input jack for the child’s electronics. Colors offered are blue/red, click to view, and click here to view the pink model. The product weight is not listed. When the time comes, the company allows you to call them for a larger headband replacement at no charge.
RUGGED AIR RA250
The RA’s come in at the least expensive headset on this list. This passive headset offers a 24 decibel Noise Reduction Rating and a 3.5 mm input jack for electronics. They advertise that the headset band can be adjusted down to toddler size and are offered in one red color. It also has what they call a “stay put flex boom”, so that might be helpful in keeping the mic in place for a child. Click here to view. The product weight is not listed, but they offer a full 7 year factory warranty.
Yes, there was a lot to take in. Use the checklist at the top to prioritize features for your family, and see how they compare to these headsets. I was there, trust me! I can tell you that once you get a properly fitted headset the fun can begin!
THE FAMILY AIRPLANE TOP PICKS
Introducing your children to flying and incorporating them into your world of aviation is the absolute best. I wish you luck in your journey to find a well fitted headset for your little one. Please don’t fly without one, so you protect those little ears.
I know headsets aren’t the only thing to consider when flying with kids. If you are still trying to figure out car seats, click here to read my car seat checklist.