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Noise exposure and hearing impairment in air force pilots

Journal article
Authors P. Muhr
A. C. Johnson
J. Selander
E. Svensson
Ulf Rosenhall
Published in Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance
Volume 90
Issue 9
Pages 757-763
ISSN 2375-6314
Publication year 2019
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Health and Rehabilitation
Pages 757-763
Language en
Subject categories Occupational medicine, Audiology


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. © 2019 Aerospace Medical Association.

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