Advisory Circulars

Commercial & Business Aviation


No. 0124R


Passenger Use of Personal Headsets and Protective Hearing Devices


This Commercial & Business Aviation Advisory Circular (CBAAC) is to remind air operators of potential hazards associated with passenger use of personal headsets during taxi, take-off, descent and landing, and while walking on the apron to and from the aircraft.

This revision replaces Air Carrier Advisory Circular (ACAC) 0124 dated 1997.06.24.

This revision provides clarification to air operators on the differences between personal audio headsets, personal noise filtering headsets and protective hearing appliances worn for medical or protective purposes.


Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) 705.40, 704.33, 703.38, 705.43, 704.34, 703.39 and 604.18.


Personal Audio Headsets

For the purposes of this CBAAC, personal audio headsets are those headsets that are used with personal entertainment systems such as portable CD players, cassette players, televisions and/or radios, etc.

In 1988, the Canadian Aviation Safety Board (CASB), a predecessor of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, issued an Aviation Safety Advisory with respect to passenger use of personal audio headsets.

The Board advised that a safety deficiency exists if passengers are unable to hear safety announcements over the public address system.

Audio headsets issued by the air operator are plugged into the aircraft entertainment system. These systems are equipped with an override feature which gives priority to public address announcements, thus allowing safety announcements to be heard by persons using the headsets. In contrast, it is probable that passengers using personal audio headsets and systems will not hear announcements made over the public address system.

The Board also advised that some advanced technology headsets such as "walkman" type headsets are capable of excluding up to 85% of ambient noise. Not only are passengers using such headsets on board an aircraft oblivious to announcements or instructions, but such passengers walking to or from an aircraft could be unaware of the dangers of apron traffic.

Personal Noise Filtering Headsets

This form of personal headset is a device that creates an "anti-noise" wave which cancels out the unwanted sound of certain frequencies.

These "NoiseBu®ters®" are capable of plugging into the aircraft sound system or the passenger’s own personal entertainment system.

They do permit the user to hear sounds around them, however, because they are equipped with 32-inch cables, a passenger using this device during taxi, take-off, descent or landing could create obstruction during an emergency evacuation.

Protective Hearing Appliances Worn for Medical Reasons or Protective Purposes

In response to requests from several air operators for direction pertaining to the use of appliances worn for medical reasons or protective purposes, the Commercial & Business Aviation Branch sought advice from the Civil Aviation Medicine Branch of Transport Canada.

Passengers suffering from the condition "hyperacusis" may be required to wear protective appliances.

This condition causes hypersensitivity to ordinary levels of sound, accompanied by extreme discomfort and pain, but generally does not impair the ability to hear, even while wearing protective hearing appliances. These appliances may be ear plugs, headsets (without any cables or electronic circuitry), ear caps and/or ear molds.

Civil Aviation Medicine has advised that clinically, every case is different, but it is very likely that passengers wearing this protection will be able to hear safety announcements and emergency evacuation commands while using these devices. These types of protective hearing appliances will, however, filter out low frequency noise such as the drone of an aircraft engine.


Safe practices prohibit the use of personal audio headsets while walking on the apron to and from the aircraft, during taxi, take-off, descent and landing.

The use of protective hearing appliances worn for medical reasons by passengers or protective purposes by crew is not considered unsafe while walking to and from the aircraft, during taxi, take-off, descent or landing.

Identification of the type of device being used, its function, any obstruction and risk to the safety of the passenger or crew member through its use are primary considerations in the development of procedures regarding their utilization.


The content of this CBAAC should be taken into consideration by air operators when determining the content of Operations Manuals, Flight Attendant Manuals and Flight Attendant Training Programs.

A.J. LaFlamme
Commercial and Business Aviation

Commercial & Business Aviation Advisory Circulars (CBAAC) are intended to provide information and guidance regarding operational matters. A CBAAC may describe an acceptable, but not the only, means of demonstrating compliance with existing regulations. CBAACs in and of themselves do not change, create any additional, authorize changes in, or permit deviations from regulatory requirements.

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