Firefighters are Suffering from Hearing Loss; Who’s to Blame?

Firefighters’ Hearing LossYou’re familiar with those movie scenes where the firefighters rush to rescue victims from their burning homes. When you’re watching those, the heroes often come in slow motion, background music reduced to dramatic instrumentals. In reality, however, fire rescues are much noisier. And, as some firefighters have recently revealed, working in the scene may even cause hearing loss.

Bern Ripka LLP is no stranger to such cases, as they handle numerous firefighter hearing loss cases. Below are some of them. In the end, who’s really to blame?

The Case of the Chicago Firefighters

In late 2015, a group of retired firefighters in Chicago sued a well-know siren maker for persistent hearing problems. George Beary, firefighter for almost 40 years, is one of the heads of the Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2. He, along with more than 700 other complainants, blame the manufacturer for not making the sirens safe enough for them.

Decades after his retirement, Beary says he still experiences a ringing sensation in his ears, making him unable to hear properly. Others report similar conditions. The company has previously faced multimillion lawsuits, and their attorney claimed that the noise levels their sirens exposed firefighters to are on the average level.

Beary and his group said the noise goes all the way to the back of fire trucks, which is unnecessary, since it’s already loud enough.

Ruling in Favor of the Firefighters

Years before the Chicago lawsuit, a case filed against the same siren maker ended in a $425,000 settlement in favor of the firefighters in 2009. The judge claimed that they suffered hearing loss needlessly because of the loud sirens. Early this year, there was a similar outcome for another hearing loss lawsuit in Maryland.

Sirens and Hearing Loss

In general, loud noise affects a person’s hearing capacity, but high volumes of it can cause further damage. According to the American Speech-Language Association, sounds that are louder than 85 decibels (dB), can cause permanent hearing loss. While siren makers claim their products don’t go beyond the set limit, continuous exposure to them may also have the same effect.

In the case of the retired firefighters, it sped up the process of hearing loss that comes with age. Noise comes with a firefighter’s job, and siren alarms are a given in their workplace. Manufacturers may say that they could’ve been more careful by wearing earplugs and other similar devices. Firefighters may shoot back, saying it’s the maker’s responsibility to make sure their products are fit for use.

Both parties may have a point, but the damage has been done. So, in the end, who’s really to blame?