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Deaf Pilots


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OK in my search to find the perfect flight school I have come across some interesting info for my sister who is hearing impaired. She has always shared my love of flying but we thought it not possible until I stumbled across the deaf pilots part on the FAA's page. And well now she's really interested and would like to make a go of it in helicopters but due to the cost of training she only wants to do it if she can do it for a living(cant say I blame her).


My question is do any of you out there know of a Deaf or hearing impaired pilot who is required to wear a hearing aid who is making a living from flying. She can hear pretty well out of her left ear as long as she has her hearing aid in and has used a radio interface system that hooked directly into her hearing aid before when she was in college. So in theory we should be able to figure out how to connect it to the aircraft's radio system and then as long as it was inside a good set of noise canceling headphones I would think she'd be just a capable of flying IFR and maintaining radio contact as any other pilot. And since FAA seams to go on a case by case basis with special situations like this I don't see why she wouldn't be able to make a living flying. So if any of you have any input into this it would be greatly appreciated.

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i think this is great, your sister is a trooper. i only hope if i was in that situation i would have the testicular fortitude to go ahead and give it a go. although in all honesty, it may be tough for her to get a job over some competition (competition from people who arent hearing impaired: that is most likely the only thing that would hinder). whatever happens, the best of luck to both of you!

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This might be a bit of a stretch, but might a cochlear implant be possible? I understand that it's still experimental and only people with certain conditions would be considered for this implant. It might be worth looking into in order to improve her hearing and her chances of procuring a flying position.


Other than that, a trip to an avionics tech might yield a solution for an adapter for comms.


If you want loss of hearing, I spent ten years around jets, turbines, M-16 fire, and a lot of engine noise. Tinnitis has developed. Now add to that, diesel engines, air tools, and the helo, and the tinnitis is getting worse. At least I'm used to it and the vocal frequencies aren't that bad. WHAT???



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I thought about the job thing and I mean if she can pass her FAA tests without any more issues than a hearing person then the US antidesrcimanatory laws should cover her. And from what I hear about word of mouth in this industry once she got that first job and prooved herself I dont think she'd have any problems. Thanks for the input and support guys.

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I had a prospective student who was completely deaf come in for a demo flight. I did some research a couple of days before and completely deaf pilots CAN get licensed as long as they fly in Class G and Class E (when not below basic VFR weather mins) airspace. If your sister can understand radio calls then there will be even less rectrictions. There is also a machine invented by an instructor to teach eaf students to fly a helicopter using light signals representing things like "up collective" "raise rpm" etc. I think the machine is out on the east coast. I think there is at least one private or commercial helicopter pilot who is completely deaf out there (there are apparently many more deaf fixed wing pilots out there)


For those interested, yes, I did give the deaf student his SFAR training (it took a bit longer and a lot more drawing on the white board) and a demo flight (after discussing what non-verbal signals we were going to use). I did tell him that his job prospects would be limited if he could not fly in anything but G and E airspace and he would need an instructor and school with the equipment and experience to train him. He did pretty well.


If your sister has partial hearing, I'm sure it would be very possible.

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At the school I am at there was a fully deaf pilot that got his license from here. There are a couple newspaper articles on the wall about it. I didn't know him but its very interesting how he was taught (my current instructor taught him). He had to use a code of hand signals meaning certain things as of course he couldn't look at you to see sign language and couldn't use his hands while flying. I understand he is still flying though he has restrictions such as no controlled airspace requiring radio use. I wish I could find that article online. I'll search for it again.


have you looked into bone-phone technology? if she has no vocal issues then that type of equipment would be very benificial.


here is an example of bone-phone technology



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mtbman07, you can e-mail me at JDHelicopterPilot@yahoo.com and I'll go into great detail about my situation or if you have more questions. I have severe to pofound hearing loss in both ears and using hearing aids. I started flight school even before getting my medical. I knew I should have gotten my medical first but I simply knew (gut feeling) I would find a way to make it work. I did. My medical records were sent to the FAA Medical Standards office in Oklahoma City. After almost 7 months I walked away with a second class medical with the restriction that I must using hearing aids....go figure. Anyway, approved right in time to solo worked out well. More hard work and I now fly Eurocopter AS350's for a local tour/charter company in Los Angles.


Here is my recomendations if she really wants to do this:

First, go for a demo flight. With an instructor who you have told your situation, try out the radios.

Go to a Medical Examiner and get examed(before training). Bring copies of your medical records for him to see. You may get your medical you or you may have to send the records and medical application to Oaklahoma City(the AME will do this for you if he thinks he needs to). If that is the case.......


The FAA will in time...

Approve the application or

Request a flight with a local DPE or FAA rep, in which she will not have to show flying skill but rather that she can hear and understand what is being said on the radio. If this happens, have her listen to an aviation radio for some time prior if possible so she can pick up the "language".

Or not approve the application, which I am sure you can appeal.


By the way, I called the FAA 4x's a week to follow up on my medical. I got the same answer every time but it told them how serious I was.


What ever you do, make sure to apply for a second class medical.


Something I found, I can hear better in the helicopter than in real life a lot of times. Technology has come so far. I have digital hearing aids which block out background noise automaticaly, I have an ANR headset as well. I can actualy hear better than my students and other pilots with normal levels of hearing and regualr headsets.


PS. I am not the only one. Go see the AME. Keep us posted, it could be a good info for others.

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