06 January 2014

Fighting fires and hearing loss

Urgent need for hearing prevention programs, according to an American study.

Exposure to high levels of noise is common for firefighters. Daily work in the fire services includes being surrounded by noise from fire sirens, alarms, communication devices, audio equipment in cabs, engine pumps, rotary and chain saws and ventilation fans.

An American study of 425 American firefighters shows that more than 40% have signs of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) as a result of their line of work. In addition, reported use of hearing protection devices (HPDs) was only 34%.

Effective hearing loss prevention programs, better work practices and HPDs like ear muffs and ear plugs, should therefore be implemented to reduce NIHL in firefighters.

Longer exposure, worse hearing

Firefighters are exposed to harmful sources of noise in their line of work. Such exposure to high noise levels may contribute to hearing problems, like NIHL.

According to the American survey, firefighters with longer years of work in fire services demonstrate significantly worse hearing. Also, firefighters who used HPDs less were more likely to experience hearing loss.

Hearing protection devices (HPDs)

With firefighters being exposed to harmful noise levels, they risk damaging their hearing and the risk of NIHL is severely increased.

To prevent hearing impairment among firefighters, it is recommended that effective hearing loss prevention programs are implemented as well as better work practices. Also, firefighters are urged to make better use of HPDs to ensure better hearing health.

About the study

The study was published in the medical journal ”?Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine'. 425 American firefighters from three states across the United States participated in the study, which was carried out by PhD OiSaeng Hong, from the University of California.

Source: www.ncbi.nih.gov

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