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Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners

Application Process for Medical Certification - Examination Techniques
Item 49. Hearing

Order of Examinations
  1. The applicant must demonstrate an ability to hear an average conversational voice in a quiet room, using both ears, at a distance of 6 feet from the Examiner, with the back turned to the Examiner.
  2. If an applicant fails the conversational voice test, the Examiner may administer pure tone audiometric testing of unaided hearing acuity according to the following table of worst acceptable thresholds, using the calibration standards of the American National Standards Institute, 1969:
    Worst Acceptable Thresholds
    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 the applicant fails an audiometric test and the conversational voice test had not been administered, the conversational voice test should be performed to determine if the standard applicable to that test can be met.
  3. If an applicant is unable to pass either the conversational voice test or the pure tone audiometric test, then an audiometric speech discrimination test should be administered. A passing score is at least 70 percent obtained in one ear at an intensity of no greater than 65 Db.

  1. Conversational voice test. For all classes of certification, the applicant must demonstrate hearing of an average conversational voice in a quiet room, using both ears, at 6 feet, with the back turned to the Examiner. The Examiner should not use only sibilants (S-sounding test materials). If the applicant is able to repeat correctly the test numbers or words, "pass" should be noted and recorded on FAA Form 8500-8, Item 49. If the applicant is unable to hear a normal conversational voice then "fail" should be marked and one of the following tests may be administered:
  2. Standard. For all classes of certification, the applicant may be examined by pure tone audiometry as an alternative to conversational voice testing or upon failing the conversational voice test. If the applicant fails the pure tone audiometric test and has not been tested by conversational voice, that test may be administered. The requirements expressed as audiometric standards according to a table of acceptable thresholds (American National Standards Institute [ANSI], 1969, calibration) are as follows:

  3. Ear (All classes of medical certification)
    Frequency (Hz) 500 Hz 1000 Hz 2000 Hz 3000 Hz
    Better Ear (Db) 35 30 30 40
    Poorer Ear (Db) 35 50 50 60

  4. Audiometric Speech Discrimination. Upon failing both conversational voice and pure tone audiometric test, an audiometric speech discrimination test should be administered (usually by an otologist or audiologist). The applicant must score at least 70 percent at an intensity no greater than 65 Db in either ear.

  1. Approval. The FAA does not approve or designate specific audiometric equipment for use in medical certification. Equipment used for FAA testing must accurately and reliably cover the required frequencies and have adequate threshold step features. Because every audiometer manufactured in the United States for screening and diagnostic purposes is built to meet appropriate standards, most audiometers should be acceptable if they are maintained in proper calibration and are used in an adequately quiet place.
  2. Calibration. It is critical that any audiometer be periodically calibrated to ensure its continued accuracy. Annual calibration is recommended. Also recommended is the further safeguard of obtaining an occasional audiogram on a "known" subject or staff member between calibrations, especially at any time that a test result unexpectedly varies significantly from the hearing levels clinically expected. This testing provides an approximate "at threshold" calibration. The Examiner should ensure that the audiometer is calibrated to ANSI standards or if calibrated to the older ASA/USASI standards, the appropriate correction is applied (see paragraph 3 below).
  3. ASA/ANSI. Older audiometers were often calibrated to meet the standards specified by the USA Standards Institute (USASI), formerly the American Standards Association (ASA). These standards were based upon a U.S. Public Health Service survey. Newer audiometers are calibrated so that the zero hearing threshold level is now based on laboratory measurements rather than on the survey. In 1969, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) incorporated these new measurements. Audiometers built to this standard have instruments or dials that read in ANSI values. For these reasons, it is very important that every audiogram submitted (for values reported in Item 49 on FAA Form 8500 8) include a note indicating whether it is ASA or ANSI. Only then can the FAA standards be appropriately applied. ASA or USASI values can be converted to ANSI by adding corrections as follows:
    Conversion ASA or USASI to ANSI
    Frequency (Hz) 500 Hz 1000 Hz 2000 Hz 3000 Hz
    Decibels Added * 14 10 8.5 8.5

    * The decibels added figure is the amount added to ASA or USASI at each specific frequency to convert to ANSI or older equivalent ISO values.

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