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Tinnitus (ringing In Ears)

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Fellow Pilots,


I've been experiencing a mild ringing in my ears for the last few weeks, which I've come to know as a condition called Tinnitus. I first started noticing a faint noise when sitting in a quiet space about a year and a half ago. This also coincides with when I started flying turbine helicopters on a daily basis instead of just once a week. Why the condition has worsened in the last few weeks is a mystery as I am back to flying turbines approximately once a week again. Though Tinnitus can be caused by repeated exposure to noise, it can also be caused by aging, genetics, or a myriad of other causes, so my theory that the helicopter may have caused this is just that: a theory.


While it would make sense that the high-pitched whine of the turbine engine is the likely culprit, I am a bit frustrated with that prospect, as I have always been very protective of my hearing. When I'd go to rock concerts as a kid, I would wear earplugs whereas most of my friends wouldn't. And as a pilot, I've worn earplugs and a ANR headset whereas many of the pilots I work with just wear a regular headset and report no hearing issues even after 20 plus years of flying turbines. I've always been a bit more sensitive to sound than most, so maybe that's part of the cause as well. I'm a bit perplexed, as I have less than 1,000 hours turbine and am still in my early thirties. I wouldn't have expected something like this until much later in my career (again, assuming that this was caused by the helicopter noise, which is not for sure).


Even with all that protection, I do notice that the high-frequency noise from the engine penetrates through both headset and earplug. It's not uncomfortable or loud, but I suspect that over time, the repeated frequency may be causing some damage. Maybe not and maybe it's completely unrelated to my profession, though that seems unlikely.


My doctor tested my hearing and my hearing is fine, so that's a relief. He did say that there is no cure for Tinnitus and that the key is to prevent it from getting worse. I'm not happy about it, but can live with it at the current level, but would not want the ringing to get any louder.


My questions to you, my fellow pilots, are:


1. Has anyone experienced anything similar?

2. Does anyone know of a way to get more protection from the engine whine than just a headset and earplugs?


I fly the B206 and AS350 and the B206 seems to be louder for me in terms of engine noise. It's much better when flying with my helmet, but I do a lot of charter work where I just wear a headset (work in US) and that's when I notice the whining engine more. I went to a custom earplug clinic, but they didn't have anything that would target the high-end noises. Maybe I should strap a pillow to the top of my headset so that it pushes up against the little over-head window in the B206 when I fly to block the noise coming in. I'm sure my passengers would enjoy the new look!


Thanks for any input!

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FYI , I have had tinnitus 5 yrs , just got ER-25 musician earplugs.

Use them mostly for riding m/cycles, I haven't had a chance to fly with them yet.

So far they seem excellent. ( red dot rt ear, blue dot left ) :P


Here is info sheet :




They have 25 dB filters in them and still allow you to hear normal conversation.


Cost is approx $ 200.



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No, I started riding in 1968 and the old helmets were probably a contributing factor.

The new full face helmets can be as bad , 80 dB + in some cases.

I suddenly noticed it about 5 yrs ago. They say that 30% of men over 50 have tinnitus.

If you are lucky you can ignore it, I seem to be able to tune it out but some can't.


When I reload the camera I always keep my headphones on.

The 206 is a lot worse than the A-Star for me by the nose.

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I also use the acoustic ear plugs with the 25db filter and find them excellent and use them riding bikes as well ! the noise from the helicopter transmission will give you hearing problems and riding bikes wthout hearing protection will give you long term hearing problems



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young pups take note, start wearing ear plugs NOW in any noisy environment. that includes concerts, loud night clubs ect. if you leave a club that was so loud that your ears are ringing? you are most certainly damaging your hearing. it may not show up right away but all of a sudden you're thinking: "where did that ringing come from?" :unsure:


like GR, mine is ignorable most of the time but it's always there..........

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Another nasty part of tinnitus is that when you go into a noisy environment ( bar, disco whatever ) your hearing shuts down.

The audio overload makes hearing a conversation from someone 3 ft away really difficult.

Young bucks take note or you risk this . . . .


She: " Gee, I really dig helicopter pilots ....... come on back to my place " :punk:

You ( yelling ) " SORRY, WHAT DID YOU SAY ? "

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Be cautious of the ANR headsets as well... They are designed for fixed wing airplanes, with a totally different sound signature, thus you get "white-noise" which is also damaging...


There was a very large study in Norway on this, as the offshore pilots started complaining about tinnitus. One even won a major lawsuit because of it (loss of license..)


So, my advice?


Use helmet/headset, AND good earplugs, (I always do, and I don't care who the passenger is, I will wear my helmet...). Visor down reduces even more noice! Never stand around loud machinery (lawnmovers to junior guys...), without any hearing protection, remember, your inner ears are some of the organs in your body that can NOT heal.




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I have occasional tinnitus. I get it every once in a blue moon. no discernable pattern as to cause and effect. It usually lasts no more than 10-15 minutes. I've had it since I was in the military in my early twenties (I was in the Armoured Corps). When I do get it, it's actually quite loud, but doesn't stop me from working.


Funny anecdote: When I passed my hearing test for my first medical, while I was locked up in the little sound booth, my ears started ringing. I told the audiologist and she just about had a cow ! She started having me do all sorts of funky test while my ears were ringing. When I told her the ringing had stopped she was all upset ! Apparently researchers are very curious as to occasional tinnitus and don't often get to observe occurances... :lol:

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