Police officers face a variety of occupational hazards that can impact their health, though hearing loss is often overlooked. The nature of the job exposes officers to various sources of noise. Over time, this can lead to irreversible damage.
When you understand the common causes of work-related hearing loss for police officers, you can more easily make that connection.
Sirens and alarms
One of the most recognizable sounds associated with police work is the blaring sirens of patrol vehicles. Constant exposure to these high-decibel sirens, especially in emergency situations, can contribute to hearing damage over time.
Firearms and explosive devices
Police officers use and train with firearms and sometimes work around explosive devices, both of which generate intense, impulse noise. The concussive force from gunfire and explosions can cause immediate damage and repeated exposure without proper hearing protection can lead to cumulative hearing loss.
The law enforcement community depends on radios for communication. The need to stay connected in dynamic situations often means using devices at high volumes. Prolonged exposure to loud communications, especially in the confines of a patrol car, can contribute to hearing impairment.
Policing often involves patrolling streets, managing crowds and responding to incidents in various environments. The ambient noise levels in these settings, such as traffic, construction or public events, can contribute to gradual hearing loss if officers are not equipped with proper protective gear.
Studies indicate that noise exposure at work leads to approximately 16% of the disabling hearing loss globally. Those in industries at greater risk, such as police officers, should recognize those risks and seek workers’ compensation when necessary.