When it comes to loud noises, most emergency settings are fairly intense. Most firefighters and officers should be aware of the risks to their hearing by now, so why aren’t more of them wearing the appropriate protective gear?
Table of Contents
- Hearing Loss Among Firefighters: The Expense
- Link Between Noise and Potential Diseases
- Hearing Loss Among Firefighters: The Impact of Noise
- Hearing Loss Among Firefighters: Noise Protection Strategy
- Hearing Loss Workers Compensation Benefits
Hearing Loss Among Firefighters: The Expense
The percentage of individuals with hearing loss is anticipated to more than quadruple by 2060, reaching about 22%. This figure does not exclude firefighters.
Hearing conservation has some catching up to accomplish while PPE progresses in other areas. One reason for the sluggish acceptance of hearing protection, according to industry experts, is the idea that firemen wearing it may be unable to hear instructions. Failure to respond to voice orders, alarms, or other low-intensity noises might place a firefighter in grave danger of injury or death.
A group of specialists investigated 192 firemen and discovered that their hearing loss was 150% more than that of similar-aged persons working in “non-noise exposed” environments. There are several possible exposures to dangerously high decibel levels in the firefighting profession.
The average decibel level of a fire scene begins at 80dBA and rises to 95dBA on the way back from the incident. Long-term exposure to a decibel level of 80dBA can induce inner-ear damage, hearing loss, and other diseases we’ll talk about.
Link Between Noise and Potential Diseases
The amygdala in your brain is aroused when you are exposed to a constantly loud environment. The amygdala mediates our stress reaction, sometimes known as “fight, flight, or freeze” (FFF).
When aroused by the noise, the amygdala instructs your cardiovascular system to raise blood pressure while diverting blood flow to organs (such as those in your intestine) that aren’t required for an FFF reaction. At the same time, more blood rushes to the back and extremity muscles.
The amygdala also instructs the adrenal glands to begin producing cortisol, a stress hormone, in your body. Increased blood pressure and cortisol levels have been related to heart attacks and strokes, particularly when those levels are present on a daily basis due to the amygdala’s continual stimulation.
The Way Amygdala Affects our Bodies
- To provide oxygen to your main muscles, your heart beats quicker. Your heart rate may increase or decrease in frigid weather.
- Your breathing rate increases in order to give more oxygen to your blood. You may hold your breath or limit your breathing during the freeze response.
- Your peripheral vision improves, allowing you to be more aware of your surroundings. Your pupils dilate and let in more light, allowing you to see better.
- Your hearing gets more acute.
- Blood thickens, which raises the concentration of clotting components. This helps to prepare your body for harm.
- Your skin may sweat more or get chilly. You can seem pale or have chills.
- Your hands and feet may get chilly as the blood supply to your main muscles increases.
- Perception of pain Fight-or-flight lowers your sense of pain briefly.
Hearing Loss Among Firefighters: The Impact of Noise
Hearing loss can be acute (caused by a single large event, such as an explosion) or chronic (from continuous exposure, such as working in a noisy environment without hearing protection). Noise, according to Dr. Douglas Hildrew, medical director of Yale Hearing and Balance Program, destroys the crucial hair cells within the cochlea, resulting in hearing loss that can impair cognitive abilities.
Being unable to hear normally can lead to a decline in cognitive functioning, which might lead to social isolation out of frustration or humiliation. They may subsequently experience a lack of mental stimulation or social engagement, increasing the probability of further cognitive impairment.
Mental stimulation and social engagement are both important for sustaining excellent health and functionality in the rest of the brain. When the amygdala is consistently stimulated, it grows in size, while other portions of the brain atrophy.
This should serve as a cautionary note for firefighters as we contemplate the harmful impact of social isolation on our mental health, which mental health specialists believe can contribute to depression, substance misuse, and even suicide.
Hearing Loss Among Firefighters: Noise Protection Strategy
One in every five Americans has hearing loss, and 80% do nothing about it, owing to the fact that hearing loss happens gradually. Surprisingly, whereas most individuals get frequent eye exams, only a small percentage receive regular hearing examinations.
Depending on the circumstances, firemen may be required to wear earplugs. In-ear speakers are a useful alternative for communication, and wearing earmuff-style devices can give further protection.
Engineers who work near loud pump panels should wear a noise-canceling headset with a microphone that links to the vehicle’s intercom system. These are quick, short-term measures.
Fire departments must examine the investments required to avoid hearing loss in order to provide long-term protection.
Wearing noise-canceling equipment such as earmuffs or earplugs is an example of active hearing protection. Keep in mind that the noise level is determined by the NRR rating of the protective device being employed.
While the NRR is measured in dB, the hearing protection you select does not lower the ambient decibel level by the precise amount of decibels associated with that device’s NRR.
The Most Common Forms of Active Hearing Protection Equipment
- Communication system headsets: Most fire departments have taken proactive measures to shield their firemen from the noise produced by today’s fire apparatus by using noise-canceling radio headsets.
- Earmuffs with many positions: Most earmuffs on the market today are lightweight and may be worn over the head, behind the neck, or under the chin.
- Earplugs: Simple noise-canceling earplugs are a low-cost hearing protection alternative.
Hearing Loss Workers Compensation Benefits
Workers Compensation was founded in 1911 to encourage businesses to make workplaces safer by mandating safety programs and the installation of safety devices.
Over 2.5 million workers’ compensation claims have been lodged since 1911. Hearing loss workers’ compensation claims are currently the third most common occupational sickness claim. Workers’ compensation for hearing loss is a relatively unknown benefit that covers hearing health treatment, which is frequently uninsured.
Many health insurance policies and programs, such as Medicare, may not cover the cost of hearing aids, but workers’ compensation may. It also compensates for hearing loss handicaps, as it does for loss of vision or other afflictions. Aging populations, technological advancements, and increased sensitivity to hearing loss are attracting more attention.
Always feel free to contact Johnson Law Offices if you have any questions regarding the procedure, the law, or a specific case.
The legal, medical, and audiometric issues that arise in a hearing loss workers’ compensation claim can be complex. Attention to detail is required, as is the ability to interact successfully with hearing-impaired seniors and their families, particularly spouses, and hearing health care specialists.