Top Dem seeks study on effects of airplane cabin noise

Top Dem seeks study on effects of airplane cabin noise
© Thinkstock

The top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is seeking answers about the long-term effects of airplane cabin noise on flight crews.


In a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Tuesday, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) raised concern regarding permanent hearing loss and damage that airline personnel may suffer from by being exposed to loud noises for long periods of time.

He emphasized that it is critical for flight attendants to have the “sensory faculties necessary to spring into action” during an emergency situation.

“I have long been concerned that cabin crewmembers may sustain permanent hearing loss from their continuous exposure to wind, engine and other equipment-generated noise inside cabins, where they repeatedly work for up to 14 hours per day,” DeFazio wrote. “For years, I have insisted that federal regulators do what is necessary to make the airliner cabin workplace safe and accessible.”

The Oregon Democrat expressed frustration over the lack of comprehensive data about cabin noise levels across different types of aircraft, even though the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) has established noise decibel limits in workplace environments where hearing protections are not in place.

DeFazio is calling on the GAO to study whether flight attendants experience noise levels that exceed OSHA’s limits; if the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is addressing the effects of cabin noise on the health and safety of airline personnel; and what protective equipment or aircraft design options exist to mitigate cabin noise.

The lawmaker also hinted that the results of the study may influence the next long-term reauthorization of the FAA, as the agency’s current legal authority expires next September, and urged “prompt and expedited completion” of the requested report.