Is Noise Cancelled?

After taking a pair of noise-cancelling Airpods for a spin, noise seems absolutely necessary.

By Emma Wooley

Illustration by Derek Abella


Sometimes, I avoid trying new things because I worry I’ll like them too much. I’ve never tried ecstacy, for example. I think I would love ecstasy. I’ve never smoked a cigarette, despite recurring vivid dreams in which I am smoking a cigarette and it feels fantastic. Noise canceling headphones have always been, for some reason, counted among these things like a habit-forming narcotic. Despite the ubiquity of noise canceling technology, and the many use cases for it in my own life as a New Yorker and frequent flier, I resisted Bose’s siren song for many years.

This past October, sitting in row six million on a full flight from JFK to Paris, something inside me snapped. As two parents argued bitterly over the screams of their miserable children for the full duration of a two hour delay on the tarmac, and I sat by helplessly with a pair of cheap wired earpods stuffed into my ear canals, I resolved to invest in noise canceling headphones. This beleaguered family was the Final Boss of in-flight disturbances, sent by Big Noise Canceling to convince me of my need for their product.

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