A patrol rifle issued to a law enforcement officer produces over 160 decibels when fired in an open area which can cause significant hearing damage. If that same rifle is fired in close quarters, the effect is increased creating a painful noise that will lead to prolonged hearing damage. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health lists that any exposure to noise over 140 decibels causes immediate and irreparable hearing loss.
Almost all Law Enforcement agencies make their officers wear hearing protection during live fire range training, however not many dictate the required levels of protection while an officer is on duty. Officers responding to a call do not typically put on hearing protection and if that officer was required to fire a patrol rifle while on duty, the shots would most likely cause hearing loss.
To prevent hearing loss in their officers, a few progressive law enforcement agencies have equipped their patrol rifles with suppressors. The Ottawa Police Service has equipped their carbines with Black Creek’s DT Little Bird, a mini-suppressor design to bring the decibel level to a point where the risk of hearing loss is greatly mitigated, however the rifle still makes a distinguished and recognizable noise.