Can I become an airline pilot while being a cochlear implant user?

Hi everyone, I’m new to all this and trying to explore a possible new career path. I’ll try to summarize my situation as short as possible. I grew up as hard of hearing my whole life (both ears). After high school I worked for a while unsure of what I wanted to do or what I could do for a career. I found the fire service and immediately fell in love with it. I did EMT and firefighter but no one seemed sure if I qualified medically to actually work as a firefighter. After trying for several years to be a firefighter, I figured I would get my fire inspector certification to get my foot in the door and hopefully transfer over to the other side of things. I was hired by a department at the end of 2020 as a fire inspector but I immediately ran into issues due to my hearing loss.
In an attempt to keep my job, I want to my hearing aid doctor to see if we could find a solution. He recommended getting evaluated for cochlear implants and referred me to a specialist. There, I found out that somehow in the last 5 years I’ve been rapidly losing what hearing I had left, though we don’t know the cause. I didn’t notice it, mainly because it’s such a gradual thing. I qualified for cochlear implants and made the decision to get them bilaterally ( both ears), knowing that the surgery would take away any natural hearing I had left, but with the processors on I would probably a lot better than with just hearing aids. After getting one side implanted and activated I knew I made the right decision and went and got the other side done the same. After several months of essentially relearning how to hear again as an adult, my hearing is so much better and clearer than it ever has been in my whole life. Even though it’s not 100% perfect and I can’t hear anything at all when the magnets are removed from my head, I still know that I absolutely made the right decision. My confidence is greater than it’s ever been, I can socialize again, I’m no longer isolated even in a room full of people and I rarely ever have to ask anyone to repeat themselves. It does still happen sometimes, but not nearly as much as before.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out with the division I was in with the people in the department. Even after all that there was still some very clear discrimination and other negative things that are neither here nor there. Chiefs in other divisions wanted me to transfer over to the line (actual firefighters). A few of them got together and poured through the 5000 NFPA’s to see if I could qualify or be waived medically. After a lot of searching, we finally found the answer I had been trying to get since I started that journey. Put simply, I can’t. Especially not now. We tried some other things to see if we could figure something out, but I couldn’t even wear a helmet that wouldn’t knock the magnets off my head, which I mentioned before, leaves me in silence.
So as you can see, I want to know that I’m not going to have another repeat of spending years working towards something, just to find out much later, that there’s a standard keeping me from doing this. Last time I spent 10 years of my life doing everything in my power to make it successful. I do not regret it at all. I learned so much about myself, what I’m capable of, what I can achieve when I put in the work for something and that I can get much further than most people think with my disability. As much as I enjoyed the ride, I’m now in my early 30’s. I have an incredible girlfriend who I want to start a life with, but I’m back to living at home since having had to leave the fire department. This is something a friend of mine thinks would be great for me. And I can definitely see myself doing this. I think it would be amazing and I had thought about it before and during all the fire training.
My friend helped me research it a little. It turns out the FAA actually has standards for cochlear implants. He’s done a lot to help me and guide me, but I also want some other thoughts, opinions and advice. Anything anyone has to share or that they think might help.

John,

It really depends on the FAA. Your first step is to apply for a First Class Medical. I would bring all of your hearing related paperwork with you and expect the medical application to be deferred while they review it further. The medical cannot have any restrictions placed on it by the FAA.

If you are able to obtain a medical, you need to make sure that you really can hear 100% of what is being said to you, even in loud environments. Communication is essential in this field of work.

Chris

Adam

To add to Adam’s link, here is an FAA document that goes into more detail regarding the AOPA link.

Amazing what technology allows these days!
Best of luck,
Chris F

https://www.faa.gov/data_research/research/med_humanfacs/oamtechreports/2010s/media/201807.pdf#page14

Thanks for the input everyone! I’m scheduling a medical examine and am MFT. I’m sure the doctor knows all this but I’m gonna print out all the info in the links and bring it to him. Any additional info is still appreciated!!

John,

Please let us know how it goes, I hope the sis an easy one for you.

Chris

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