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Sirens put firefighters at greater risk for hearing loss, experts say

The workplace hazard is unavoidable: Sirens put firefighters at greater risk for hearing loss, experts said on Tuesday.

“The damage is invisible. It’s internal to your ear,” said Dr. Catherine V. Palmer, director of audiology and hearing aids in the department of otolaryngology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “It’s permanent damage, and it’s generally gradual.”157618458

Four Pittsburgh firefighters on Monday filed a civil lawsuit against seven manufacturers of sirens and fire trucks, claiming they are responsible for their permanent hearing loss. The firefighters — three of whom have worked for the city since 1981 — did not return calls, but in the lawsuit they claim the companies “knew or should have known that the products … were inherently dangerous, defective and hazardous to human hearing.”

The lawsuit is among several similar ones filed by Philadelphia attorney Joseph Capelli and New York attorney Marc Bern.

“We believe it is without merit, and Mack Trucks will defend it accordingly,” said Kimberly Pupillo, a 78407646spokeswoman for the Allentown truck manufacturer, which is named as a defendant.

Chicago attorney Hamilton Hill, who represents siren manufacturer Federal Signal Corp., said the Illinois company prevailed in an “overwhelming majority” of similar cases that went to juries. Other lawsuits were dismissed, said Hill, who declined comment on the Pittsburgh lawsuit.

The other defendants did not return calls.

Ralph Sicuro, vice president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1, said some firefighters wear city-issued Styrofoam ear protectors, but “it’s not like they’re readily available at the engine house. … I know at times guys have had them, but I don’t have any myself.”

The union is not involved with the lawsuit. Pittsburgh fire Chief Darryl Jones, Public Safety Director Michael Huss and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s office did not article-2313817-1973E315000005DC-148_634x286return calls for comment.

Studies of hearing damage to firefighters have long shown noise-induced hearing loss.

In 1992, former federal Fire Administrator Olin L. Greene said noise “is probably the most underrated health hazard” for firefighters. A 2007 study by University of California professor Oisaeng Hong, director of the Occupational and Environmental Health Nursing Program at the school’s campus in San Francisco, said roughly 40 percent of all firefighters in the United States are at risk of noise-induced hearing loss.

Both said ear protection can help reduce damage.

“These studies have also found a substantial increase in high-frequency hearing loss related to the amount of time spent in the emergency services. The cases of hearing loss are irreversible and incurable,” Greene said. “They are also preventable.”

Other manufacturers named as defendants in the lawsuit are: American LaFrance of South Carolina, E-One Inc. of Florida, Kovatch Mobile Equipment Corp. of Carbon County, Pierce Manufacturing Inc. of Wisconsin and Seagrave Fire Apparatus LLC of Harrisburg.

Source: www.triblive.com

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About Adam Bernstein

Adam Bernstein is the owner of The Hearing Professionals, Milwaukee's premier hearing healthcare facility. As the owner of The Hearing Professionals, Mr. Bernstein has over 20 years of experience in the hearing healthcare industry. He began his career in 1995 at GN Danavox, one of the largest hearing aid manufacturers in the world. After leaving Danavox, Mr. Bernstein opened two hearing healthcare offices in Chicago, IL. In 2001 he moved to Milwaukee, WI and opened The Hearing Professionals. In 2008 he added a second Wisconsin office in the town of Brookfield. Today The Hearing Professionals is the largest private audiology practice in SE Wisconsin. Mr. Bernstein has written numerous articles on hearing healthcare which has appeared in newspapers throughout the country and has been interviewed by news programs regarding advances in the hearing industry. Mr. Bernstein a member of Unitron’s Customer Advisory Board and a graduate of The University of Minnesota. You can email him at adam@icanhearthat.com and you can visit The Hearing Professionals at www.icanhearthat.com.

5 responses »

  1. Are the firefighters NOT wearing their headphones?

    Reply
  2. This is interesting. I think it’s important for the sirens to be loud. How else can we make sure people hear the fire trucks? I for one want to be sure that if my house is on fire that people are getting out of the way of the fire truck.

    Reply
  3. Nice read! Our ears can withstand the sound frequency up to a certain limit, but when this frequency crosses its threshold, it can be harmful for our ears. The people who work at industrial areas have to face the unbearable noises of heavy machinery which can even cause hearing loss. Wearing ear protectors can reduce the risk of hearing loss caused by these devices.

    Reply

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