1. #1
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    Default one sided hearing loss and wildland firefighting

    I've been looking for a change in profession and I'm in the process of applying for a wildland job. My main concern is that I've got one sided hearing loss. A little background about myself is that I've been a paid-on-call firefighter since 2007. I've moved around some and have since been with 3 different fire departments that respond to both structural and wildland fires and have been cleared by physicians in all 3 of those department. I'm also currently working as an EMT-B on an ALS service. I've had this hearing loss since birth and it's been well documented through audiograms. I've been denied full time employment with a full time fire department due to not meeting their hearing standard. My question is would I have a problem getting into the wildlan service with my hearing loss despite my past fire history?

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    This question has never come up for me before, but I was able to dig up the standards we use for the Federal Government (US Forest Service, National Park Service etc). The bad news for you is it does look like you need hearing in both ears.

    This came from an interagency medical standards program which was suspended a few years ago and has yet to be replaced, so I really can't give you definitive yes or no. Honestly if you can do the job, I have a feeling you would not be turned down for work as a temporary seasonal firefighter. It could impact your ability to hold a career position though.

    HEARING STANDARD

    The HEARING standard relates (A) the firefighter’s need to hear verbal communications and both natural and manmade warning sounds with (B) the essential functions and work conditions of a wildland firefighter, including working on small and large teams, driving, rapid pull out to safety zones, and providing rescue or evacuation assistance under conditions that may include isolated and remote sites, falling rocks and trees, trucks and other large equipment. The hearing standard is set at an average threshold of no greater than 40 dB at 500, 1000, 2000, and 3,000 Hz in each ear, consistent with the DOT regulations for commercial drivers. This level is more lenient than that allowed by the NPFA 1582 standards (30 dB average threshold at these frequencies), or what is considered to be “normal” hearing (25 dB), but is felt to provide a reasonable hearing threshold level where louder than normal communications may be expected. Hearing aides are not permitted in meeting this standard, due both to the limitation in directional hearing afforded by hearing aides, and to the risk of dislodging of a hearing aid during critical or emergency periods when hearing must be acute. Some ear and hearing conditions, including those listed in the standards, may not be compatible with safe and efficient performance of wildland firefighter duties under these conditions.

    The applicant/incumbent must be able to hear well enough to safely and efficiently carry out the requirements of the job. This requires binaural hearing (to localize sounds) and auditory acuity, which may be demonstrated by:
    • A current pure tone, air conduction audiogram, using equipment and a test setting which meet the standards of the American National Standards Institute (see 29 CFR 1910.95); and
    • Documentation of hearing thresholds of no greater than 40 dB at 500, 1000, 2000, and 3000 Hertz in each ear; and
    • No evidence by physical examination and medical history of ear conditions (external, middle, or internal) likely to present a safety risk or to worsen as a result of carrying out the essential functions of the job.

    Note: The use of a hearing aid(s) to meet this standard is not permitted.

    CONDITIONS WHICH MAY RESULT IN DISQUALIFICATION INCLUDE, BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO, THE FOLLOWING EXAMPLES:
    1. MENIERE’S DISEASE
    2. ACOUSTIC NEUROMA
    3. OTOSCLEROSIS
    4. Any other condition not otherwise listed that may adversely affect safe and efficient job performance will be evaluated on a case-by-base basis.

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    Thanks for the info Here and There. I also found this website: http://www.nifc.gov/medical_standards/wf/index.html
    which is probably the same place that you got the standards from. It has some info regarding the "waiver/mitigation" process. Not sure if you're familiar with it or not.

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    Yep, that is where I found it. The thing is that program was established in 2006-07 and had a very rocky start, after just a year or two it was suspended. There was a waiver process, but I don't know how it worked out.

    Currently we really don't have any medical standards other than the pack test and the self screening questionnaire which is mostly cardiac related.

    The vast majority of seasonals do not get physicals at all, so unless the hearing specifically came up you would probably fall through the cracks. The issue would be what would happen when / if they ever get the medical standards up and running again.

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    Thanks for the insight Here and There!

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