Most people know there are plenty of occupational hazards for first responders, but wouldn’t consider hearing loss to be among them.
Whether you’re a police officer, firefighter, paramedic, EMT or other first responder, there are plenty of ways for your hearing health to be compromised. Sirens, explosions, gunshots, roaring fires, exposure to hazardous materials and other common environments of the typical workday are far from ideal soundscapes for our ears.
One study found that firefighters have a 40% chance of developing hearing loss during their career, while that number doubles to 80% for those in law enforcement. Protecting your hearing during your career is key to avoiding or limiting the amount of damage incurred.
Audio Help Hearing Centers in New York reminds first responders and their families that these workplace environments can wreak havoc on not only their hearing health but a number of other aspects of life, including:
- Adding even more danger: Being a first responder is dangerous enough without adding more hazards to your day. Hearing impairment can make you up to 90% more prone to mistakes on the job – mistakes that could prove deadly to yourself or a member of the public.
- Making job more difficult: Communication is a big part of any first responder’s job responsibilities. Critical conversations with fellow responders, dispatchers and members of the public take place constantly throughout the workday. Nearly 70% of law enforcement personnel report regularly asking people to repeat themselves. More than 60% said they often misunderstand conversation or directions due to their impairment.
- Tougher times at home: Hearing loss affects more than just time spent on the job – home life can suffer because of misunderstandings and poor communication due to hearing loss. Again, a first responder’s life is stressful enough without the additional burden of a hearing deficit.
- Increased chance of mental health problems: First responders with untreated hearing loss are more prone to a number of mental health issues, including cognitive decline, feelings of isolation and depression, and dementia. Why? Because hearing loss can make us withdraw from social stimulation, increasing the likelihood of these conditions and diseases.
Limiting the risks
Being a first responder doesn’t mean you have to simply accept that you’re going to have significant hearing loss. The following tips can help you be mindful of the dangers and how you can prevent further damage:
- Get tested annually. Treat your hearing part of your routine health care and schedule an appointment today.
- Wear earplugs or other protection when it’s safe to do so
- Learn more about how other factors such as smoking, medications and stress can increase your risk of hearing problems.