Blazing sirens, revving motors and loud gun shots – these sounds are more than the fabric of your television crime drama. They are the reality for law enforcement personnel across the country and one of the primary reasons for the elevated level of hearing loss among this group.
In one study, police officers were 1.4 times more likely to have hearing loss than other civil servants. The difference was even greater for motorcycle officers.
While most law enforcement agencies require the use of hearing protection while training on the shooting range, unprotected exposure of officers to sirens and other high-intensity sounds still exists. In addition, many law enforcement personnel spend substantial time in their cars or on motorcycles, where road and engine noise increase their risk of hearing loss.
SCOPE OF THE PROBLEM
Hearing loss is a growing problem across professions. Most people are surprised to learn that nearly one in five Americans suffer from hearing impairment severe enough to make communication difficult. Contrary to common believe, this problem is not only contained to the older population, above the age of 65.
Actually according to the Better Hearing Institute, the majority (65 percent) of people with hearing loss are younger than age 65 and still in the workforce. The younger workers are at risk as well. In fact, 7.4 percent of generation X (Ages 29 to 40) already have hearing loss.
Understanding that people in the law enforcement field are at higher risk for hearing loss, hearing health care professionals have conducted comprehensive national surveys which uncovered the scope of the problem for this group of professionals. It found that 52 percent of law enforcement personnel have a diagnosed hearing problem versus 12 percent of workers overall.
An additional 28 percent of law enforcement personnel suspect they have hearing loss but have yet to seek a hearing health care professional. The reality of the profession is that more than half of the officers in the profession believe it is very likely that noise exposure in their profession is damaging their hearing.
IMPACT OF HEARING LOSS ON THE JOB
Where face-to-face interactions in the field or over the radio, hearing is an important part of law enforcement communication which keeps these professionals informed, safe and connected to one another.
Strain from untreated hearing loss can lead to poor communication and become a major safety concern. It can also affect the health and well-being of an officer by causing excessive anxiety and stress, even contributing to depression. According to the surveys, more than 75 percent of law enforcement personnel agree that moderate hearing loss would hurt their productivity on the job.
Despite the overall growing number of people in law enforcement suffering from hearing loss, far too few are seeking the hearing health care they need. Less than 20 percent of law enforcement personnel have had their hearing checked in the past two years.
Of those with untreated hearing loss:
- 67% often ask people to repeat what they said
- 61% often misunderstand what is being said
- 61% sometimes pretend to hear what they actually can’t
LISTEN UP AND MAKE SURE YOU’RE COVERED
Knowing that they are at a higher risk for hearing loss, people who work in law enforcement should be educated on the steps they can take right now to address and treat hearing loss while safeguarding their hearing in the future.
They should also consider taking advantage of hearing coverage with health insurance providers to cover regular evaluations by an Audiologist and to minimize the cost of hearing aids, should they be needed.
The National Institute of Health reports that hearing aids cost on average about $1,500, but can be as high as $3,000 to $5,000. These costs catch many officers off-guard. In reality, 40 percent of law enforcement personnel are under the false impression that hearing aids are covered under most medical plans.
What to do:
-Learn more about risk factors and treatment options for hearing loss. Additional resources can be found at Nola Hearing.
-Express interest in hearing loss treatment and take advantage of hearing insurance when it is offered.
To find out more about hearing loss and the many styles of hearing aids, visit www.nolahearing.com.