QUOTE(Ranger @ May 15 2006, 10:42 PM) [snapback]84817[/snapback]
Exactly right. We're required to wear headset/boom mics below FL180. In my case the ear facing the other pilot is always uncovered. After 35 yeras of flying, a lot of it without hearing protection, my hearing is not as good as it once was. Covering both ears with a headset would create some problems.
Don't you guys have a crew interphone? I can talk to the other crewmember directly through the mic via a voice-activated intercom.
For those that don't know: You wear a headset that protects your hearing, while being able to communicate with the other pilot through your microphone directly to his/her headphones. The microphone remains off until it detects sound (your voice) and then becomes active, transmitting what you are saying to the other pilot.
When I first began flying (1981) virtually nobody used headsets in light aircraft. It was, usually, simply a handheld microphone and an overhead speaker. This changed because we all wised-up about the hearing damage that can occure due to long term exposure to high sound levels. Now, wearing a headset, covering both ears, is the norm.
I have flown a dozen different jet aircraft models, but not any of the airliners, so I don't know firsthand what the cockpit noise levels are for the various big iron stuff. But it has been my experience that a jet cockpit can go anywhere from requiring merely no noise-attenuating headset to something giving you both active and passive protection. But in any case, there IS ambient noise and a headset improves your ability to hear and communicate with the other crewmember and ATC.
Even in jet aircraft you can be exposed to sound levels that are harmful, over the long term, to your hearing. In fact, some jets are astoundingly loud in the cockpit and wearing full headsets are essential. For this reason headsets are important, and the voice-activated intercom still allows you to communicate with the other pilot.