Patrol Officer Daily Noise Exposure
Previous research shows that police officers are at a higher risk for noise induced hearing loss (NIHL). Little data exists on the occupational tasks, outside of the firing range, that might lead to the increased risk of NIHL. The current study collected noise dosimetry from patrol officers in a smaller department and a larger department in southern Wisconsin, United States. The noise dosimeters simultaneously measured noise in three virtual dosimeters that had different thresholds, criterion levels, and exchange rates. The virtual dosimeters were set to: the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) hearing conservation criteria (OSHA-HC), the OSHA permissible exposure level criteria (OSHA-PEL), and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH). In addition to wearing a noise dosimeter during their respective work days, officers completed a log form documenting the type of task performed, the duration of that task, if the task involved the use of a siren, and officer characteristics that may have influenced their noise exposure, such as the type of dispatch radio unit worn. Analysis revealed that the normalized 8-hour time weighted averages (TWA) for all officers fell below the recommended OSHA and ACGIH exposure limits. The tasks involving the use of the siren had significantly higher levels than the tasks without (p = 0.005). The highest noise exposure levels were encountered when patrol officers were assisting other public safety agencies such as a fire department or emergency medical services (79 dBA). Canine officers had higher normalized 8-hr TWA noise exposure than regular patrol officers (p = 0.002). Officers with an evening work schedule had significantly higher noise exposure than the officers with a day or night work schedule (p = 0.023). There were no significant differences in exposure levels between the two departments (p = 0.22). Results suggest that this study population is unlikely to experience NIHL as established by the OSHA or ACGIH occupational exposure levels from the daily occupational tasks that were monitored.