Hearing sensitivity among police officers
Eatinger, Kristine Elise
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The purpose of this study was to assess the extent of hearing loss within a sample population of police officers by using pure-tone, speech and immittance audiometry. In addition, a survey questionnaire was completed by each officer to gather information about the officer's noise history. Pure-tone audiometric results for the 57 officers were analyzed by sex and age. Their audiometric profiles ranged from excellent hearing sensitivity throughout the frequencies tested to hearing losses in the higher frequencies that would warrant the use of hearing aids. Hearing loss became greater with increased age. Speech discrimination ability was tested in four different conditions: under earphones for each ear separately, in a quiet sound-field environment and with noise in the sound-field environment. For most officers, scores were good to excellent under earphones and in a quiet soundfield. In the noisy environment, performances decreased significantly as reflected in fair to poor scores. Immittance audiometry revealed virtually all normal (Type A) tympanograms for the police officers. Acoustic reflexes were commonly present at 1000 Hz and often absent at 4000 Hz. Acoustic reflex decay was insignificant (0 percent) where tested. The survey results indicated that over one-half of the police officers felt that they had a hearing problem and thought that work-related noise may have been a contributing factor to their hearing loss. Nearly all of the officers claimed that they wore hearing protection when engaged in work-related firearm practice, yet very few wore ear protection when in non-vocational noisy settings. It appears as though police officers are acquiring hearing loss at a more rapid rate than the general non-noise exposed population. It was recommended that hearing conservation programs be implemented by all police departments.