HEARING & THE AVIATION MEDICAL

When are hearing tests required by CASA?

CASA stipulate that a hearing test is needed for Class 1 & Class 3 medical certificates:

  • On initial license issue
  • Then at ages 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80

Bear in mind that you will still need an audio at 25 if you had your first Class 1 or 3 medical at age 24.

What are the hearing standards?

The hearing check at the medical is just a screening test that most people easily pass. The CASA standards to pass the screening test are:

  • 35 decibel (dB) loss at 500Hz, 1000 Hz, or 2000Hz
  • or a 50 dB loss at 3000Hz

35dB is around the sound level of a very quiet conversation. The hearing check itself is a simple tone – you can or can’t hear it.

The vast majority of people pass the initial screening test. In the unlikely event you do not pass the audio then you may  require a a speech test. The final test is that of a hearing in the work place (ATC or cockpit).

How is the hearing checked?

Your hearing is checked with an Audiometer which we have available at the clinic.

The device emits sounds at a specific pitch and volume, and you simply press the button when you hear the sound.

The test takes around 15 minutes.

TYPES OF HEARING PROBLEM

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive Hearing Can be thought of as a physical obstruction to the sound waves somewgere between the outer and inner ear.

Common causes of conductive hearing loss are:

  • Ear Wax – Easy to treat!
  • Infections of the middle ear (otitis media) and outer ear (otitis externa). Pain is often prominent, and these are treated with antibiotics. The wearing of an occlusive headset combined with long flights in a light aircraft in the summer provide just the right conditions for a fungal ear infection. Keep your ears dry!
  • Perforated eardrum following otitis media. Most heal within around 6 weeks.
  • Otosclerosis: a progressive disorder that usually starts in younger adults, causing the bones of the middle ear to over-grow

Conductive hearing problems can usually be sorted out by The ENT Specialist.

Cochlear and aviation

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural Hearing Loss is describes impaired hearing caused by neurological impairment of the delicate inner ear.

Individual hair cells of the cochlear pick up sound waves that are transmitted to neural impulses and then on to the central nervous system.

There are a variety of causes of this type of hearing loss.

Common Causes of sensorineural hearing loss are:

  • Ageing – It’s an inevitable part of getting older that hair cells are lost with age.
  • Excessive noise. In the aviation environment, it’s important to wear noise-cancelling headset and set the intercom volume to a level that is not too high.
  • Viral Infection
  • Vascular
  • Medication such as Quinine, diuretics and some Antibiotics like Gentamicin
  • Meniere’s Disease: This condition also causes Vertigo and Tinnitus

Acute sensorineural hearing loss (usually outside of the aviation environment) is regarded as an Emergency – there are now effective treatments in some patients provided the treatment is started as soon as possible.

Dr Richard Beatty, specialist GP & Designated Aviation Medical Examiner; BM FRACGP MRCP(UK) ACCAM
Last Reviewed / Modified: 22/09/2019
First Published: 14/11/2014