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Hearing loss on the flight deck – origin and remedy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 July 2016

M. Bagshaw
Head of Occupational and Aviation Medicine, British Airways, Harmondsworth, UK
M. C. Lower
Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, University of Southampton, Hampshire, UK


Routine periodic audiometry performed as part of the statutory medical examination of flight crew employed by a major international airline indicated that up to 27–5% may suffer noise induced hearing loss, with 10-8% showing unilateral hearing loss. This was considered to result from the practice of listening to radio communications through a headset covering one ear only, leaving the other ear uncovered to allow direct conversation between crew members on the flightdeck. Ambient noise levels at the crew seats and noise levels from crew headsets were measured on a sample of aircraft and routes using a Kemar acoustic manikin. Noise levels on the flightdecks were 70-79dB(A) Leqaveraged over a flight of typically seven to ten hours duration. Noise levels from headsets were 77-89dB(A) Leq being 80dB(A) or higher on 80% of flights, and 85dB(A) or higher on 40% of flights. Five prototype or production active noise reducing (ANR) headsets were evaluated in flight and in the laboratory. It was shown that the better examples, worn to cover both ears, would allow flight crew to reduce headset volumes so reducing risk to their hearing.

Research Article
Copyright © Royal Aeronautical Society 2002

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