World Hearing Day: Hazardous Exposures in Law Enforcement

Today – March 3 –  World Hearing Day – NIOSH is highlighting the pioneering efforts of Florida’s Alachua County Deputy Sheriff, Ryan Lee Scott, who is the winner of the 2017 Safe-in-Sound Excellence in Hearing Loss Prevention Award.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 1.2 million Federal, State, and local law enforcement officers work in the United States. These officers are required to train regularly in the use of firearms, typically at indoor firing ranges, and are often exposed to impulsive sounds that exceed the occupational health limits of 140 decibels (dB), with sound levels often reaching 160-170 dB peak sound pressure levels.

NIOSH has an active firing range program that includes various research efforts on the effects of impulse noise from firearms on hearing and several health hazard evaluations that examined exposures and provided recommendations to prevent noise-induced hearing loss.

Many challenges remain to implement hearing loss prevention programs and best practices to reduce hazardous exposures in the law enforcement community. These include:

  • Fragmentation of resources and guidelines across agencies and police departments;
  • Lack of uniform national safety and health standards, and lack of proper training and educational programs on hearing loss and its effects on hearing health and performance; and
  • Educational programs on hearing loss and its effects on hearing health and performance.

The Safe-in-Sound award was created by NIOSH in partnership with the National Hearing Conservation Association (NHCA).

For information on noise, visit the NIOSH noise topic page and for other NIOSH activities related to the public safety sector, see the public safety sector program page.