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Noise Exposure and Hearing Impairment in Air Force Pilots

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OBJECTIVE: The goal of this study was to estimate noise exposure and hearing impairments in Swedish military pilots. It also aimed to analyze possible relations between noise exposure and hearing impairments.

METHODS: The study group was an open cohort of 337 male pilots. They were longitudinally followed with pure tone audiograms every fifth year from the beginning of flight service until discharge. Outcome measures were prevalence of thresholds >20 dB HL and >40 dB HL at different ages, and incidence of impairments >20 dB HL, 30 dB HL, and 40 dB HL. Exposure variables were individual flight data and noise dose measurements. The ISO 1999 Database A was used for reference data.

RESULTS: At 50 yr of age, 41% of the pilots were exposed to an equivalent noise dose exceeding the EU action level of Leq 80 dB(A). We observed significant elevated prevalence values of thresholds >20 dB HL in all age classes compared to the ISO 1999 Database A. These elevations were most pronounced at ages 30 and 40 yr and at 4 and 6 kHz in the left ear. Significantly elevated prevalence values of thresholds >40 dB HL compared to the ISO 1999 Database A were observed at age 40 and 50 yr at 4 and 6 kHz. In a Cox analysis we observed elevated hazard ratios of deteriorating thresholds with longer flight time/year in fast jet pilots.

DISCUSSION: Military pilots had elevated prevalence values of hearing impairment. Of the subjects, 41% had been exposed to noise exceeding the EU risk limit. Increased flight time/year and flying fast jets were associated with elevated risk of hearing deterioration.

Muhr P, Johnson A-C, Selander J, Svensson E, Rosenhall U. Noise exposure and hearing impairment in air force pilots. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2019; 90(9):757–763.
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Keywords: aircraft; dose; incidence; military; prevalence

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2019

More about this publication?
  • This journal (formerly Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine), representing the members of the Aerospace Medical Association, is published monthly for those interested in aerospace medicine and human performance. It is devoted to serving and supporting all who explore, travel, work, or live in hazardous environments ranging from beneath the sea to the outermost reaches of space. The original scientific articles in this journal provide the latest available information on investigations into such areas as changes in ambient pressure, motion sickness, increased or decreased gravitational forces, thermal stresses, vision, fatigue, circadian rhythms, psychological stress, artificial environments, predictors of success, health maintenance, human factors engineering, clinical care, and others. This journal also publishes notes on scientific news and technical items of interest to the general reader, and provides teaching material and reviews for health care professionals.

    To access volumes 74 through 85, please click here.
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