The AudioNotch Tinnitus Treatment Blog

Tinnitus and Pilots: A Study Shows Increased Risk

Written by AudioNotch Team on April 18, 2013

Categories: Hearing Tinnitus

There’s a great deal of noise exposure in certain lines of work. Unsurprisingly, a lot of anecdotal evidence suggests an increased risk of tinnitus among airline pilots. Pilots are routinely exposed to extremely loud noise from the function of their aircraft engines. As such, they often suffer noise induced hearing loss, and consequent to this hearing loss, oftentimes develop tinnitus in the frequency spectrum of hearing loss. Despite efforts to protect the hearing of pilots, these efforts appear to be largely unsuccessful. A study confirms the association between being a pilot and acquiring tinnitus:


Frequent or constant tinnitus can be a problem for pilots because it can be distracting and/or interfere with communications in the cockpit. We studied tinnitus in a population of airline pilots to determine its prevalence and identify predictors.


A total of 418 male and 42 female pilots on duty in a Swedish airline returned a completed tinnitus questionnaire (response rate 79%). Multiple logistic regression analysis was performed; variables retained in the model included age, smoking, exposure to loud impulse noise during leisure time, previous work as a military pilot, years of employment as a commercial pilot, and type of aircraft. When available, the pilots’ most recent routine audiometric test (N = 388) was used to study the association between hearing impairment and tinnitus.


A total of 40% of respondents had experienced tinnitus for more than 5 min during the past year, 18% reported constant or severe tinnitus, and 12% had at some time visited a doctor for problems related to tinnitus. There were associations between tinnitus and age, impulse noise, and hearing impairment at 3, 4, and 6 kHz. There was no association with aircraft type or work as a military pilot. Pilots with tinnitus were more likely to report themselves disturbed by noise in the cockpit.


These results show that tinnitus is relatively common among pilots and can create problems with sensitivity to noise. The frequency of tinnitus is most closely related to age, gender, exposure to high impulse noise during leisure time, and hearing impairment.