Introduction: In order to investigate possible hearing loss as a consequence of aviation noise, a comparative analysis of audiometric data from Norwegian Air Traffic Control (ATC) personnel, airline (fixed-wing) pilots, and helicopter pilots was performed. The results may be of use in giving advice regarding preventive measures.
Methods: Male ATC, airline, and helicopter pilots were selected randomly from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) medical files. There were 182 subjects included in the study: 50, 81, and 51 subjects for ATC, helicopter, and airline pilots, respectively. Two audiograms with a 2-3-yr interval were analyzed for each individual. Age correction was performed using data from ISO 7129. Threshold changes per year for the frequencies 3, 4, and 6 kHz were examined in particular after age correction.
Results and discussion: For all three groups, mean hearing threshold levels were above (worse than) ISO 7129 predictions for most frequencies. As expected, hearing thresholds increased with age in the group as a whole. Looking at the 3-, 4-, and 6-kHz frequencies in particular, all groups had small but highly significant increases in hearing thresholds at 4 kHz between the first and second audiogram.
Conclusions: The mean hearing thresholds for this group of aviation personnel are higher than International Standard ISO-7129 would predict according to age. Highly significant changes in hearing threshold after age correction, indicating possible noise-induced hearing loss, were found in all groups at 4 kHz. The fact that helicopter pilots had similar hearing loss to their other aviation colleagues indicates that current hearing protection for these pilots is effective in counteracting the increased noise levels in helicopters.