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Firefighters’ Hearing: A Comparison With Population Databases From the International Standards Organization

Kales, Stefanos N. MD, MPH; Freyman, Richard L. PhD; Hill, Jeoffrey M. BA; Polyhronopoulos, Gerry N. BS; Aldrich, Jon M. BA; Christiani, David C. MD, MPH, MS

Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine: July 2001 - Volume 43 - Issue 7 - pp 650-656
Original Articles

We investigated firefighters’ hearing relative to general population data to adjust for age-expected hearing loss. For five groups of male firefighters with increasing mean ages, we compared their hearing thresholds at the 50th and 90th percentiles with normative and age- and sex-matched hearing data from the International Standards Organization (databases A and B). At the 50th percentile, from a mean age of 28 to a mean age of 53 years, relative to databases A and B, the firefighters lost an excess of 19 to 23 dB, 20 to 23 dB, and 16 to 19 dB at 3000, 4000, and 6000 Hz, respectively. At the 90th percentile, from a mean age of 28 to a mean age of 53 years, relative to databases A and B, the firefighters lost an excess of 12 to 20 dB, 38 to 44 dB, 41 to 45 dB, and 22 to 28 dB at 2000, 3000, 4000, and 6000 Hz, respectively. The results are consistent with accelerated hearing loss in excess of age-expected loss among the firefighters, especially at or above the 90th percentile.

From the Cambridge Health Alliance (Dr Kales, Mr Hill, Mr Polyhronopoulos, Mr Aldrich); Harvard Medical School (Dr Kales); the Harvard School of Public Health, Department of Environmental Health (Occupational Health Program) (Dr Kales, Dr Christiani); the University of Massachusetts School of Public Health and Health Sciences, Department of Communication Disorders, Amherst (Dr Freyman); and the Pulmonary/Critical Care Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, and the Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Massachusetts Respiratory Hospital, Braintree (Dr. Christiani).

Address correspondence to: Stefanos N. Kales, MD, MPH, Occupational Medicine, Department of Medicine, The Cambridge Hospital, 1493 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02139; e-mail: stefokali@aol.com.

Copyright © by American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

© 2001 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.