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Law Enforcement Officers at High Risk for Hearing Loss

by Alexandra Kilpatrick

Law enforcement officers are exposed to loud noises that can lead to hearing loss later in their careers and for the remainder of their lives.

About 10 million Americans experience noise-induced hearing loss, while 30 million encounter dangerous noise levels every single day.

Hi HealthInnovations audiologist Diane Nens recently spoke with Officer.com about various ways officers can recognize warning signs and both prevent and treat hearing loss.

“Police officers are exposed to noise on a daily basis,” Nens explained to Officer.com. “They are exposed to gunfire and they are exposed to a lot of noise even through their radio systems and traffic.”

Nens stresses the importance of preventing hearing loss, especially since hearing is an essential tool for law enforcement officers.

“It’s critical that the police officers are hearing well, because they have to be able to understand speech, localize where sounds are coming from and be able to respond appropriately to both speech as well as environmental sounds,” Nens told Officer.com.

The Michigan-based audiologist presented a few ways officers can reduce their risk of hearing loss on duty.

“First, I understand that it’s not always possible to use ear protection, but when possible, use ear protection,” Nens recommended to Officer.com. “It really, really does make a difference because exposure to noise is cumulative, so at first, we may not notice hearing loss, but over a prolonged period of time, we are at risk for that.”

Ear protection includes traditional spongy earplugs, ear muffs and custom ear protection prescribed by a doctor or audiologist. If ear protection is not an option, simply cover your ears with your hands or move away from loud sounds.

Luckily, thanks to a rise in education and public awareness, prevention is more prevalent now.

“Years and years ago, hearing loss wasn’t really talked about,” Nens explained to Officer.com. “Over time, police departments have begun really encouraging their officers to use ear protection and having testing completed.”

Nens also comments that the law enforcement officer patients she’s seen have usually been middle-aged or older. The warning signs she has seen in these patients are similar to those of the general public.

“Some of the signs they have experienced with hearing loss have been when they’ve had to turn the radio up, speech isn’t as clear and may even come in and say that it sounds like people are mumbling when they talk,” Nens told Officer.com. “Untreated hearing loss truly affects peoples’ lives. It affects relationships, it affects their social interactions and there are even medical considerations.”

Nens recommends buying hearing aids if advised by a doctor or audiologist.

“Being able to understand speech, being able to hear soft sounds or maybe if one police officer has to whisper to another, it really helps with the hearing,” Nens told Officer.com. “First and foremost, get a hearing test. Talk to your doctor or your audiologist to schedule a hearing test. This way, the police officer knows where they stand.”

If you are interested in learning more about hearing loss and how to treat it, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!

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