Objective: To determine the prevalence and characteristics of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and the use of hearing protection devices (HPDs) among career firefighters.
Methods: A Web-based survey and a standard audiometric test were performed with 425 firefighters from three states in the United States.
Results: More than 40% showed hearing loss in the noise-sensitive frequencies (4 and 6 kHz). The left ear showed significantly poorer hearing than the right ear. Firefighters having longer years of work in fire services demonstrated significantly worse hearing. Reported use of HPDs was 34% of the time that was needed. Firefighters who used HPDs less were significantly more likely to have hearing loss.
Conclusions: This study demonstrated a considerable NIHL problem and low use of HPDs in firefighters. More comprehensive hearing conservation programs should be implemented to reduce NIHL for firefighters.
From the School of Nursing, University of California San Francisco (Drs Hong and Chin), and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago, Ill (Dr Samo).
Address correspondence to: OiSaeng Hong, PhD, RN, FAAN, Occupational and Environmental Health Nursing Graduate Program, School of Nursing, University of California, San Francisco, 2 Koret Way, Room N 531D, San Francisco, CA 94143 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The authors report no conflicts of interest. The authors alone are responsible for the content and writing of the paper.
Funded by the US Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Administration Assistance to Firefighters Grant (grant EMW-2007-FP-00785, PI: Hong).