Health Risks of Aircraft Noise

As flight travel becomes more prevalent, communities have started to feel the effects of these loud aircrafts. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times highlights the impacts of flight noise on communities and how citizens can work with government officials to minimize the noise impacts. Jet Blue has taken notice of how loud noise from these jets can negatively impact communities by airports so they are retrofitting their Airbus fleet to make the aircraft quieter. This is a win for individuals on the ground, but in-flight noise is still a concern among pilots, flight attendants, and passengers.

Sound is considered a pollutant according to OSHA. It has the ability to cause physiological stress, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and disruption of job performance.  and which means there are standards noise must comply with. Currently, the noise standard in the work place is 85 decibels over an 8-hour period. OSHA’s jurisdictions do not extend to aircraft cabins which is currently regulated by the FAA. The FAA has given OSHA permission to regulate aircraft cabin noise. Figure A shows regulations and standards set in place. Together OSHA and the FAA have been working together to keep noise standards under 85dB but there are still a few shortcomings that can be addressed to better protect pilots, flight attendants, and passengers in flight.

As flight technology advances, flight range increases with flights exceeding 17 hours. Since protective standards set in place by OSHA have a limit of 90db, exposure over this time can be damaging to one’s health. A study done by Zevitas et. al. shows that sound levels in airplane cabin during flight range from 38db to 110db. Once sound levels reach 90db, a protective program should be put in place but so far there is no mandatory protection plan for pilots, flight attendants, and passengers. More research on airplane cabin noise and aircraft retrofitting should be done to lower potential flight-related health risks.

Figure A: Noise standards in the workplace

Figure A: Noise standards in the workplace

Figure A