Occupational Noise Exposure in International Flights: A Study of Noise Levels and Impacts on Passenger & Crew

Air travel became and will remain an essential mode of transportation across the globe. Are you the one who shuttles between cities / countries? This write-up is for you. Passengers and Crew members are often exposed to high noise levels during flight take-off, landing, and during cruise from engine, air conditioning system and fellow passengers.

These noise sources are sometimes more than allowable limits, can contribute to auditory system deterioration, hearing loss, sleep disturbance, cardiovascular disease and diminished learning capacity over the period of time. We were curious to understand this by testing it in real time. This article summarizes results from a noise level measurement study conducted during an international flight. We have verified compliance with the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) standards for noise exposure and discussed some common noise sources and potential impacts on passenger hearing. We have also added some suggestions on hearing protection measures, especially for longer travels.

Our measurement focuses on 5 phases of flight: Taxiing, Take-off, Landing, Cruise and Parking modes and we have used a Class 1 type sound level meter.

OSHA standards for exposure to noise (29 CFR 1910.95) specifies a maximum permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 90 dBA for an 8-hour workday.

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The results show that the noise levels inside the aircraft are within the OSHA standards for noise exposure, the maximum noise level recorded during take-off and landing was 84 dBA which is well below the PEL of 90 dBA. During cruise mode, the maximum noise level recorded was 75-78 dBA, which is significantly lower than the noise levels during take-off and landing.

Based on outcomes from this measurement, we can conclude the passengers and crew members are not subjected higher noise impacts however it is worth noting that the levels can vary depending on several factors such as the type of aircraft and flight duration.

We suggest frequent flyers & crew to use noise-cancelling headphones, earplugs, or earmuffs to prevent / reduce the risk of hearing damage or exposure to higher noise levels. We emphasize the Airline agencies and regulatory bodies not to underestimate the impact of noise levels on their passengers and staff by conducting regular noise level measurements using Class 1 Type Sound level measurements or Noise dosimeters thereby ensuring the safety and well-being.


Sheik Abdullah

Sheik is an Assistant Project Manager in Acoustics Division, having completed a Bachelor's Degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Post Graduate Diploma in Acoustics & Noise Control from Prestigious Institute of Acoustics (IOA), UK. He has over 7 years of professional consultancy experience in various Engineering domains such as Acoustics, Sustainability and Building Services.