The AudioNotch Tinnitus Treatment Blog

Pilots With Tinnitus

Written by AudioNotch Team on January 17, 2015

The noise and constant vibrations that are associated with air travel can take its toll on those who fly for a living. Pilots with tinnitus are very common. Pilots are one of the most notorious sufferers of ringing in the ears, a condition that is medically referred to as tinnitus. This condition is at best annoying. At worst, it can take a toll on the emotional well being of sufferers and interfere with their job abilities. Some pilots report difficulty hearing important radio control tower instructions due to the interference of the ringing in their own heads.

Prevalence of Tinnnitus
The percentage of regular pilots with tinnitus is high. One Swedish study of commercial airline pilots reported that 79 percent of the study participants were diagnosed with some level of tinnitus. This is significantly higher than non-pilots. The most likely to be diagnosed were those commercial airline pilots who began as military fliers.

Hearing Damage Prevention
The use of headsets has become more common as the damage that regular noise exposure can cause has come to light. There are two kinds of headsets; passive noise reduction and active noise reduction. Passive noise reduction headphones use insulation to stop the sound from reaching the ears, and to lower the decibel level of the noises that can be heard. Active noise reduction headphones are also known as noise cancelling headphones. They emit white noise, which is designed to cancel out the frequencies of the airplane engine, and result in silence.

Possible Treatments
For a long time, tinnitus was believed to be an incurable condition. A number of different drugs have been tried, though no pharmaceutical has currently been approved as a cure or significant treatment for ringing in the ears. Pilots with tinnitus are a common group that is continually used in medical testing, though no cure has yet been conclusively found.

Magnetic Treatments
More recently, neurologists have found that the location of the problem exists in the brain’s temporal cortex. Low-frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) to this region of the brain is a new and effective treatment that can help sufferers.

Mindfulness and Meditation
As tinnitus is most severe during times of stress, some pilot studies have begun to look at using meditation and mindfulness to try and reduce the stress levels of the pilots. Rather than try and treat the condition, these programs seek to lower the chances that the tinnitus will manifest itself. These practices may also allow a person to reduce symptoms when they do suffer. Though this treatment has not passed all studies yet, early results are promising, and follow-up studies are being funded.