The LEO will not need any restrictions from hearing-dependent tasks or further testing if, on audiometric testing, all pure-tone thresholds are 25 dB or less in each ear at each frequency – 500, 1K, 2K, and 3K Hz. (Testing should include 4K, 6K, and 8K Hz to monitor hearing for hearing conservation programs, but testing at these frequencies should not be considered in medical fitness for duty evaluations.)
There was group consensus that an LEO will need restrictions from hearing-dependent tasks if, on audiometric testing, the pure-tone threshold in the better ear is greater than an average of 40 dB over 500, 1,000, and 2000 Hz, with or without a hearing aid.3 (See also Hearing Aid Testing section.)
For those LEOs whose hearing falls between the criteria listed above, additional hearing assessment should be performed. This assessment may utilize a variety of tests and consultations with hearing professionals to better define the hearing impairment. This information should be matched to the hearing-dependent essential job functions the LEO is required to safely perform. With this information, the police physician might be able to determine appropriate work recommendations.
The Task Group has been unable to determine if a specific word recognition score should be used as a cutoff for the LEO to safely perform EJTs. Therefore, while the information obtained from testing may be useful, the police physician, in consultation with the hearing professional, should interpret it for each LEO and the tasks involved in that individual’s job description.
Hearing Test in Ambient Noise
These tests – i.e., Speech Perception in Noise (SPIN), Speech in Noise (SIN), and Hearing in Noise Test (HINT) – measure speech recognition in a noisy environment. While these tests may simulate the LEO’s working environment more closely than traditional tests, there is no validation testing to show at what level the LEO will experience difficulty in the field. Thus, these tests can be part of the overall evaluation of an LEO, but should not be used as a stand-alone pass-or-fail test.
If at any time there is evidence of inadequate performance of hearing-dependent EJTs, the LEO should be restricted by the AHJ management from performing these tasks. Failure to achieve a required level of job performance is an issue that must be resolved by the AHJ management. Job performance is not a medical issue. However, the police physician may be requested to determine if a medical problem has contributed to a performance issue, and whether such problems can be effectively treated and corrected.
Asymmetrical hearing is defined as a difference in average hearing level between the better and poorer ears at more than 15 dB at 500, 1000 and 2000 Hz or more than 30 at 3000, 4000, and 6000 Hz.4 Although the audiologic literature defines asymmetrical hearing at frequencies of 3000 Hz and higher, the impact of asymmetrical hearing in this range on performance of EJTs by the LEO is not clear.
Symmetrical hearing is critical to localizing sound sources (e.g., threats, search and rescue, traffic awareness, etc.). However, there is no literature that addresses the amount of difference that will affect EJT performance. Nevertheless, the police physician may be asked to determine whether the LEO needs restrictions for asymmetrical hearing. Consideration should be given to performing functional testing for those LEOs with asymmetrical hearing as defined above.