Photo: GaudiLab/Shutterstock

These Noise-Canceling Headphones Make In-Flight Sleeping a Breeze

Technology + Gear
by Hannah D. Cooper Sep 11, 2023

As someone who needs at least nine hours of uninterrupted sleep nightly, long-haul flights never fill me with glee. Obviously, travel always triumphs and the odds of a mile-high cat nap have improved since adding a pair of noise-canceling headphones to my gear list for sleeping on airplanes. The Sony Noise Canceling Headphones WHCH710N use Dual Noise Sensor Technology to survey your environment and intuitively blot out disturbances. They use 30mm drivers for high-quality audio and function via Bluetooth and cable (provided). Over on the right-hand speaker, you’ll find the noise canceling/ambient sound “NC/AMB” button. Clicking this once activates “ambient sound mode”, a second tap deactivates it, and a third toggles to noise canceling mode.

Do you struggle to sleep on the plane? Check out Matador’s rundown of everything that can make it easier for you:

Ambient sound minimizes interference while also letting you tune into onboard announcements or eavesdrop a juicy conservation. On the other hand, the noise-canceling technology is designed to limit lower-frequency sounds such as the classic airplane cacophony of snoring, coughing, clattering trays, and rustling bags. My WHCH710N model doesn’t entirely block out everything but it does smooth things out and create a restful aviation experience — which, for $94.50, is a great deal.

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We hope you love the Sony Noise Canceling Headphones WHCH710N! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay. Listed prices are accurate as of the time of publication.

Using these travel headphones in-flight

Photo: Sony
Photo: Sony

As Bluetooth isn’t permitted during take-off/landing and any other times instructed by crew members, the headphones must remain off at these times. But, even when turned off, the headphones soften background noise. Once at cruising altitude, you can switch them on, sync the headset to your device using Bluetooth, and activate ambient noise-canceling. This gives them an edge over in-ear headphones that rely on wireless.

You’ll still be able to connect the headphones to the entertainment dock using the audio jack right after boarding. Once airborne, you can switch on the headphones and activate noise canceling. I’ve tinkered around and honestly found that just having the headphones plugged in with the cable but switched off works just fine for movies. When I’m ready to hit the recline lever, I’ll link my smartphone to the headset, hit the NC button, and doze with podcasts and white noise apps.

Another perk of the over-the-ear Sony Noise Canceling Headphones is that you can slip them over regular earbuds. I’m also a fan of Loop Earplugs for sleeping on airplanes. If you are particularly sensitive to noise (or wind up on a rowdier plane), you can double up and trust that the over-the-ear headphones will spare you from losing the plugs while slumbering.

The battery life of the Sony Noise Canceling Headphones should account for around 35 hours. Supposedly, a 10-minute via USB-C charge (the cord is supplied) provides up to five hours of playback. My headphones lasted through two 12-hour flights with an hour-long charge midway through my vacation. Wearing them more or less the entire time – toggling between on and off – they were still over 50% charged. With frequent use during my regular week, I recharge them roughly every 10 days.

Comfort verdict

sony noise canceling headphones

Photo: Sandor Szmutko /Shutterstock

Comfort was my paramount concern when shopping for travel-friendly noise-canceling headphones for longer wear. The Sony range – including my WHCH710N model – has a padded headband and earpads. Being oval-shaped rather than round, the speakers slot over the ear more snugly. These headphones are also extremely lightweight albeit without feeling flimsy and as though they wouldn’t survive a tumble.

I’ve worn these travel headphones for hours upon hours at a time and haven’t felt the friction or discomfort I’ve suffered from earbuds. When used in tandem with white noise I’ve managed to snatch a couple of hours of sleep and generally feel better rested at touch down. Another perk is that the cushioned pads will keep your eye mask in place.

What’s the catch?

The one downside to wearing an over-the-ear headset on a plane is if you’re a window seat loyalist. It’s a whole lot trickier to perfect the lean-against-the-window pose although it can be done with the aid of complimentary airline pillows and blankets. A neck pillow is a handy addition to maximize the potential of your noise-cancelers. And, although you can wear these headphones with glasses, this is where you’re most likely to feel a bit of discomfort after extended use. Remember to keep a case to hand so you can stow your specs safely while sleeping.

Who should buy the Sony Noise Canceling Headphones WHCH710N?

Having a pair of noise-canceling headphones has been a game-changer for sleeping on planes as well as zoning out on long rail or road journeys. Earbuds do have their charms but this over-the-ear model will suit you if you’re sensitive to in-ear tech. These Sony noise-cancelers are comfortable for extended use and I find that the audio quality is sharp enough for travel and leisure. They’ve made it far easier for me to snooze in the sky and detach from inflight clatter.

If you’re prone to losing smaller gadgets, these chunky earphones make it harder. The swivel design means you can keep them securely around your neck when transiting through the terminal. If you are fortunate enough to nod off while cruising, there’s zero chance of this over-the-ear headset going walkies down the back of your seat. Yet, they’re not as cumbersome as gaming headphones.

The Sony WHCH710N model is an affordable, entry-level headset ideal for frequent travel. As they’re not the highest-value product on the market, I wouldn’t be too furious with myself if I misplaced them on the road and had to rebuy. With 40mm drivers, touch sensor control, and a neat carry pouch, the Sony WH1000XM4 model is a good comparison before you buy.

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