Occup Med: State of the Art Rev 1995 Oct; 10(4):843-856
A loss of auditory acuity can be a life threatening situation for a firefighter, as so much of their work, when fighting a fire, takes place in an area where visual perception is significantly reduced or all together lost. The OSHA standard for occupational exposure to noise specifies a maximum permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 90 A- weighted decibels (dB(A)) for a duration of 8 hours a day. Several noise surveys conducted by NIOSH have indicated that firefighters may be exposed to intense noise during emergency operations, with some exposures exceeding 120dB(A) for short periods. However, full shift noise dosimetry have consistently shown lower levels which are generally lower than the OSHA PEL. A few fire departments have begun hearing conservation programs for their firefighters, which include the measurement of vehicle noise during code 3 responses. Hearing conservation programs should be implemented by fire departments way to reduce the possibility that firefighters will suffer permanent noise induced hearing loss. These programs must include ways to identify areas and equipment that are potentially hazardous to hearing and then reduce the noise produced by them. Personal hearing protection devices appropriate for fire service use should be issued. Several changes have been seen recently in the types of vehicles available to fire departments. Noise surveys have repeatedly pointed to sirens, both mechanical and electronic, and air horns as major contributors to noise exposures. Incorporating the engineering controls and the use of hearing protective devices into a fire service hearing conservation program will help stem the tide of permanent hearing losses.
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