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Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2003 Jul;129(1):98-106.

Short-duration space flight and hearing loss.

Author information

  • 1Bobby R Alford Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Baylor College of Medicine, USA.



The study goal was to determine whether a single Space Shuttle mission can induce decrements in astronaut hearing. Study design We retrospectively compared audiogram information obtained from Space Shuttle astronauts at 10 days preflight, day of return (R + 0), 3 days after landing return (R + 3), and at a mean delayed postflight follow-up of 8 months.


Temporary threshold shift (mean, 4.6 dB) was noted in R + 0 versus preflight conditions (P < 0.01). Small permanent threshold shifts (mean, 0.83 dB) were found at R + 3 and postflight follow-up compared with preflight in the lower frequencies (500 to 2000 Hz), and corresponding pure tone average (P < 0.001). Conclusions and significance The data indicate that a single Shuttle flight can induce a substantial temporary threshold shift and a small but statistically significant permanent threshold shift, particularly in the frequencies involved in speech reception. Although single-mission effects are small, cumulative effects over several missions may ultimately produce clinically significant hearing loss.

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