Flying is made more tiring and stressful by the unavoidable background noise. Noise-cancelling headphones and earbuds reduce the droning sound level so you arrive in a better state of mind.
In general the noise seems to be worse the farther back in the plane you are sitting. Regional jets seem to be much noisier than larger aircraft.
I have used headphones with active noise cancellation for several years, with very good results. They have a switch on the side, and when you click it the noise level drops significantly…that’s how you know they use active sound cancellation. However, they take up room in my carry-on, so I’ve just ordered some “noise cancelling” Bluetooth earbuds from Amazon.
I’m hoping these will be less un-comfortable when I lean my head against the aircraft while trying to sleep in a window seat. I plan to report back here shortly after they arrive.
If you have a larger budget and are interested in headphones, this blog post has good information: