To determine the prevalence and characteristics of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and the use of hearing protection devices (HPDs) among career firefighters.
A Web-based survey and a standard audiometric test were performed with 425 firefighters from three states in the United States.
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.
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.