Six years after launch, the International Space Station’s living quarters are still noisier than they should be. Now Russian news reports say that astronaut Bill McArthur and cosmonaut Valery Tokarev returned from their six-month stay aboard the ISS in April 2006 with some hearing loss.
NASA will not discuss the health of individual astronauts, but spokesperson Kylie Clem told New Scientist: “It’s not an impedance to operations or crew health or safety. It’s more of a comfort level issue.”
Former astronaut Jay Buckey, now at Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, New Hampshire, US, says that both temporary and permanent hearing loss were recorded after flights on the Soviet and Russian Salyut and Mir stations, even for stays as short as seven days. The lost hearing was usually at higher frequencies.
The living quarters of the ISS are the Russian Zvezda module, which is the noisiest module on the station. NASA says the goal is for the working area to have noise levels at or below 60 decibels (dB) and sleep bunks to be 50dB. At their peak several years ago, noise levels reached 72 to 78dB in the working area and 65 dB in the sleep stations. Decibels are measured on a logarithmic scale, meaning, for example, that 60dB is 10 times louder than 50dB…
(del.icio.us is down, so I’m putting this here)