Can a Deaf Person Be a Pilot? Yes, Learn How

Many people dream of flying in the sky. Being a pilot brings an individual closer to that dream. However, hearing loss patients face numerous difficulties and obstacles if they want to become a pilot. 

So, the question is, can a deaf person be a pilot?

Yes. However, there are several rules and regulations a deaf person needs to be aware of. 

Here, we will discuss the problems a deaf person faces to become a pilot and how to overcome them.

Pilot Hearing Standard

The FAA’s 2020 states, pilots need to hear spoken voices with both ears at six feet with their back turned to the speaker. This test is known as the conversational voice test. If candidates fail the conversational voice test, they must undergo pure tone audiometric testing of unaided hearing acuity. 

The following table of worst acceptable thresholds, using the calibration standards of the American National Standards Institute, 1969:

Worst Acceptable Threshold:

Frequency (Hz)

500 Hz

1000 Hz

2000 Hz

3000 Hz

Better Ear (Db)

35

30

30

40

Poorer Ear (dB)

35

50

50

60


If an individual fails both tests, audiometric speech discrimination is conducted. To pass the test, one must obtain a 70% passing score in one ear at 65dB intensity.

Individuals can appear in these exams while wearing hearing aids. In such cases, the certificate will mention “must use hearing amplification.”

A pilot wears a headset in one ear and uses another ear to communicate with the tower base. As a result, the FAA doesn’t allow unilateral deafness in controllers. However, there are regional variations of this policy. 

If a controller doesn’t pass audiogram standards but passes speech discrimination with a 70% mark, they will need supervisory statements and then obtain special consideration.

Problems Deaf Pilot Face

Deaf pilots face numerous problems in their workplaces. The foremost problem they face is during training. It is comparatively hard for them to follow voice commands during training. This creates a communication gap between the novice pilot and the instructor.

Although digital radars have made communication easier between pilots and the communication base, pilots may need to use a radio in many instances. It can pose severe problems for deaf pilots.

Most deaf people depend on visual cues rather than sound. In mid-air, it is challenging to rely on visual cues. Therefore, deaf pilots face tremendous difficulty in their workplace.

If you are interested in learning, lip reading for the deaf.

How Deaf Pilots Can Overcome Challenges

Various assistive technologies can help deaf persons overcome challenges. Some of the prominent technologies are:

Hearing Aids

Nano CIC hearing aids

Individuals with hearing loss can get certain advantages with hearing aids. The FAA allows pilots to appear in the exam with these devices. In such cases, their certificates will mention “must use hearing amplification.” This gives the pilots the option to use hearing aids while flying.

Nano hearing aids

Cochlear Implant

Cochlear Implant

The FAA allows medical certification to use cochlear implants for flying privileges. However, one must be FAA authorized first. A doctor will need to give you clearance that your hearing ability is normal and there are no associated side effects like disequilibrium or dizziness. 

When approved, the FFA will authorize you to take a medical flight test (MFT.) You will need to schedule this flight test with your flight standard district office (FSDO.) If you obtain a satisfactory result, the FAA will issue you a medical certification.

Assistive Devices

Assistive Hearing Devices

If a pilot appears in their exam with hearing aids, they will have the option to operate the aircraft with assistive devices. The pilot can choose not to use hearing aids; instead, they can use a headset, earpiece, and overhead speakers for communication. 

Pilots and Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is one of the most distressing health problems a pilot faces. Barotrauma and noise are the primary causes for a healthy pilot to develop hearing loss. Most aircraft create high-intensity noise. With constant noise exposure, a pilot can develop hearing loss gradually. 

Biotrauma is another severe cause for pilots to develop hearing loss. It is one of the common medical problems among pilots. Despite developing cabin technologies, 8-17% of pilots are affected by biotrauma-induced hearing loss. 

Pilots can operate planes even if they have hearing disabilities. However, they are not fit for flights that require radio use (14 CFR section 61.13.) This is included in their pilot certificate.

Final Words

Deaf people can become pilots. However, they will face certain limitations and challenges here. Also, They will need to maintain certain procedures and get certificates for their flying privileges.

Hearing aids and assistive devices help individuals in this manner. It allows the pilot to communicate effectively and ensure better job performance.

Aircraft makes loud noises. Although there are various technologies to reduce noise, it can still cause hearing loss to pilots. If deaf pilots can pass hearing exams, they can continue to operate aircraft under selective circumstances.

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