Technology: Fighting Noise with Antinoise

Electronic mufflers cancel unwanted sound waves in midair

The oversize, matte-black headsets look like the kind of industrial-strength ear protection worn by airport baggage handlers. But these are no ordinary earmuffs. They are high-tech earphones designed for pilots of small jets and other light (and noisy) aircraft. Rather than soften the drumming engine noise with thick layers of plastic foam, the earphones eliminate it electronically. A tiny microphone samples sound waves at the wearer's ear, processes them through special circuitry and broadcasts countertones that cancel the offending sounds in midair. Result: silence, or something close to it.

The $965 aviation headset, made by Bose, a Framingham, Mass., manufacturer of...

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