Fighting fires can also damage your hearing (with Brian Daboul)

Are you ready for this?

There’s a whole class of hazardous chemicals that can damage your hearing, and they’re by-products of your average structure fire.

Yes, that’s right: When you burn home furnishings, you don’t just get carcinogens. You get “ototoxic” chemicals.

Now, the PPE you wear routinely for firefighting protects against this.

But—just like the stuff in smoke that causes cancer—ototoxic chemicals are a threat when you least expect them: during overhaul and even standing outside a burning structure.

And when you combine exposure to ototoxins with screaming sirens and fireground noise, well, it’s no surprise that firefighters are often retiring with substantial hearing loss.

Here to tell you what you need to know is Brian Daboul. He’s chief of the Mine Hill Fire Department in New Jersey. That’s a volunteer department, and Brian’s paid job is in occupational safety strategy and program development. He is also the owner of BGD Safety and Compliance, LLC, which serves industry and fire departments.


Occupational Safety and Health Administration ECFR – Section 29CFR 1910.95 “Occupational Noise Exposure”

Occupational Safety and Health Administration ECFR – Section 29CFR 1910.1000 “Air Contaminants”

Report: “Prevalence of Hearing Loss and Perceptions of Hearing Health and Protection among Florida Firefighters”. Published 03-05-2023

Report: “Chemicals That Can Cause Hearing Loss” Published 10-27-2021. Updated 03-23-2023