Good hearing can be a matter of life and death for firefighters. Firefighters must have the ability to hear a victim cry for help, hear tactical commands, and hear their radio for communication purposes. Every day firefighters are on shift, they are exposed to noise from sirens, air horns, apparatus, and equipment and tools such as those used in forcible entry, ventilation, and extrication activities.
As part of Portland Fire & Rescue’s (PF&R) hearing conservation program, all uniformed members are required to take part in an annual hearing test. The test tracks firefighters’ hearing from year to year and helps identify early signs of hearing loss.
Firefighters begin the hearing test process at their fire stations by filling out a questionnaire that details their exposure to noise, hearing protection measures taken in high noise areas at work, and ear issues during and before the last 12 months. Firefighters then travel to PF&R’s Logistics facility inSE Portlandto take a pure-tone test in a mobile audiometric testing van. The pure-tone test is facilitated by a technician from the Washington Audiology Services and measures hearing over a range of frequencies.
After testing is complete, results are reviewed by the Washington Audiology Services’ licensed audiologists or certified technicians and then discussed with each firefighter. Firefighters are provided with feedback in order to help them identify the early signs of hearing loss and steps they can take to protect themselves.
Portland Fire & Rescue