Compete for a Spot in the Air Force

Col. (Dr.) Joseph Brennan demonstrates a portable hearing test machine with help from Staff Sgt. Lee Adams, an ear, nose and throat technician. They are shown at the Staff Sgt. Heath N. Craig Joint Theater Hospital at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. (Photo: Spc. Opal Hood/Army) Obtained 04/25/2015. National Association for the Deaf has given us a fighting change against the Defense Department's medical standards. Right now, the standards for enlistment exclude potential airmen who use equipment such as cochlear implants and hearing aids.

The Keith Nolan Airforce Demonstration Act ( H.R. 1722) was introduced on March 26, 2015 by a Californian Democrat, Mark Takano. The bill was named after a man named Keith Nolan, an Army ROTC cadet in California who was unable to continue his training because he had not passed a hearing test mandated by the Army.  Nolan had passed through the first two levels of the Army ROTC at CSUN (California State University at Northridge) with flying colors and without an interpreter.

Keith Nolan gave a TED talk in April of 2011 talking about his fight to fight for his country.


To clarify what standards were established, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI 1996) is being used to test the hearing of all applicants. The requirements of hearing is no more than 30 decibels (dB) on the average. Current hearing aid use does not meet the standard. (This can be found in 2-7. Hearing.)

There have been changes made for groups that were previously excluded and now are allowed to serve in the military.  Takano is wanting to do the same thing for those in this community. The program would allow for between 15-20 people to serve in the Air Force.  The National Association for the Deaf has endorsed this bill and is co-sponsored by representatives from Massachusetts, Maryland, and California.

An officer, Casey Doane is in favor of the bill and states that some accommodations may need to be put in place but in reality, not much more than any other group of individuals that serve in the Air Force now. Casey Doane said, "Growing up in a deaf family I was able to see first-hand the adversity that deaf individuals faced every day. But more importantly, I was able to see the determination and perseverance that is necessary to serve as a leader in the Air Force. In fact, I credit my own determination to those experiences." It now needs to move through the House Committee on Armed Services. With this bill, more people would be given the opportunity to serve their country.