Wearing Headphones Apparently Makes Plane Food Taste Better


Image: Getty

Wearing noise-cancelling headphones could make your plane food taste up to 10% better. This is because low-pitched noises (like the drone of a plane’s engines) can make food taste bitterer by up to 10 per cent.

Plane food sucks. But what if there were a way to make that cardboard curry taste a little less bland? One English intellectual reckons wearing noise-cancelling headphones could make a difference.

Charles Spence, professor of experimental psychology at Oxford, reportedly says: “The lower cabin pressure, dry cabin air and loud engine noise all contribute to our inability to taste and smell food and drink.”

“Donning a pair of noise-cancelling headphones could actually be one of the simplest ways in which to make food and drink taste better at altitude.”

Charles Spence
Image: Getty

Putting this to the (taste) test, chefs at a Heston Blumenthal restaurant, the Fat Duck Restaurant in Bray, worked with Spence in a series of experiments. They found listening to tinkling, high-pitched notes could increase your perception of sweetness by 10 per cent. They also found that low-pitched noises accentuate bitterness by up to 10%.

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“In one such study,” The Boston Globe reports, “volunteers ranked the bittersweet candy cinder toffee as more bitter while listening to the low pitch of brass music, and sweeter when listening to the high pitch of a tinkling piano.”

“The effects… weren’t huge, but they were large enough to potentially make a difference to the tasting experience while up in the air,” Spence has said. He has also, according to The Boston Globe, called sound “the forgotten flavour sense.”

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While you’re levelling up your at-altitude dining chops, you may as well learn the following as well: overly spicy or flavoursome stuff, like Bloody Mary’s or Ginger Ales, weirdly taste better at 40,000ft.

This is because our sensitivity to sweet and salty foods plummets by some 30 percent in the air, compared to when we’re on the ground, according to a 2010 study commissioned by Lufthansa.

Put that in your glass and stir it.

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