23 Jul 2020

Hearing Protection for Public Safety Officers Bigger Need than Realized

Public safety officers are exposed to various types of noises throughout their careers, which can lead to noise induced hearing loss and other hearing damages. Hearing being a fundamental tool for police officers, firefighters and rescue professionals, it is paramount to protect their hearing with proper hearing protection.

Officers are exposed to loud noises daily

Public safety officers are exposed to loud noises from sirens, radios, and firearms during a daily work shift. These extreme environmental noises can cause noise induced hearing loss.

According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) noise above 85 decibels is considered dangerous to hearing. Exposure to 85 dB for longer than eight hours can cause permanent damage hearing or disabilities such as tinnitus. Decibel levels work exponentially, so noise levels just 10 decibels higher, at 95 dB, cause hearing damage 8 times faster, after only one hour of exposure.

Sounds considered to cause the most noise public safety officers are exposed to:

Source of Noise

Decibels (dB)

Sirens

120 dB

Helicopter

100 dB

Gunshot

160 dB

Car, City traffic

70 dB

Radio

105 dB

 

Officers are exposed to high decibel level noises caused by the environment during a shift. There is, however, a difference of noise levels depending on the officer’s specialization. A Patrol Officer will have significantly less expose to high-level noises compared to Traffic Police or a SWAT Team Officer. A SWAT Team Officer has a similar risk as military personnel, but they’re not necessarily exposed to noise daily.

Hearing is Paramount for Situational Awareness

Police officers, firefighters and rescue personnel need the sense of hearing to perform their job properly. They need to be able to understand speech, localize where sounds are coming from and be able to respond according to the changing situations. Hearing is also crucial in prevention of injuries. Especially for firefighters, because smoke often minimizes visual cues, hearing is a requirement for situational awareness.

Hearing Damage Affects Officers Career and Personal Life

Loss of hearing can ultimately mean a loss of career. Loosing a profession not only has individual financial consequences but can affect the person mentally as well. Hearing loss can affect the persons physical, mental and social health.

Hearing Protection for Public Safety Officers is Recommended

Awareness for the need for hearing protection for public safety officers is growing. Historically hearing loss hasn’t been recognized as a major disability for public safety officers, like it has been with industry profesisonals. Hearing loss often happens gradually and if hearing isn’t tested on a regular basis, it can be difficult to recognize.

Since hearing is a crucial tool for the success of a mission, it is important to protect it.

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