Recently, a firefighter approached us because the fire engine radio was difficult to understand while driving to a fire. The blend of loud noises combined with the need to clearly hear communications makes firefighters susceptible to hearing loss and decreased performance on the job. They need specialized hearing protection that can block loud noises while allowing for communication and high levels of activity.
I took a tour of one of the Denver Fire Departments with the assistant chief who is a patient. He’s incurred noise induced hearing loss due to being in the field fighting a fire and not being able to wear a headset. They wear a walkie talkie radio on full blast to cut through the noise from the equipment and firehose. The combined noise level can be painful and dangerous.
I suggested a single ear bluetooth radio to connect with the walkie talkie, but even with the headset, the ear protection of the headset would reduce their ability to hear. Instead, we connected to the walkie talkie and radio through a hearing aid.
An audiologist can help firefighters maintain a critical aspect of their job performance by offering appropriate hearing protection through customized headsets. These customized headsets offer hearing protection while at the same time allowing the radio to come through at a level that the firefighter can hear with optimal clarity.
Firefighters Can Benefit from Hearing Technology
The siren of the fire engine and the sound of the hose are two primary sources of consistent noise exposure. Over time, these environmental hearing hazards can lead to the deterioration of hearing, even at a young age. The decreased hearing can affect job performance. When in transit to a fire, you need to be able to understand the address, instructions and updates over the radio while the siren blares overhead.
A keen sense of hearing is equally important to personal safety on the job. To date, there is little indication the firefighting industry has responded effectively to hearing protection guidelines. However, audiologists have begun to craft new solutions for firefighters.
Custom-Fitted Hearing Aids and Protection
We can work with you to determine what you need for protection and hearing amplification. Right now, one firefighter patient of ours uses a custom-fitted earpiece. We took impressions of his ear and sent them to an earmold lab. The earmold lab provided a custom fitted earpiece that couples to a behind-the-ear device.
For those who drive the cab, headsets can be a great option. Specially designed headsets allow you to hear the radio clearly while granting hearing protection from the harmful whine of the siren. Even though these technologies are well-suited to firefighters, more can be done.
Audiologists are currently developing new devices, specially designed to help and protect firefighters while they are at work. We stay on the frontlines of all the new technologies to provide you with all the available options.