Some Pittsburgh firefighters have filed a lawsuit against several fire truck manufacturers - including KME - alleging that over the years the sirens have affected their hearing.

It's not the first time such a lawsuit has been filed. In the past suits have been initiated against siren manufacturers and other firms alleging hearing loss.

In some cases, settlements have been reached. We don't know how much those firefighters who were listed in the lawsuits have received, but it's generally the lawyer who wins.

Whatever happened to taking responsibility for your own actions?

It's true that firefighters are subjected to loud noise.

The National Fire Protection Association has a regulation that states: "Hearing protection shall be provided for and used by all members operating or riding on fire apparatus when subject to noise in excess of 90 dBA.

Elvex, a safety product manufacturer, says the average fire engine siren produces a sound measuring about 120 decibels, which is well above the 90 decibel threshold.

Sirens come with the territory on the job. We're sure miners subject themselves to noise just as loud. Construction workers do, too. So do many other professions.

In fact, we wonder how many of those firemen involved in the suit have been to concerts where the decibel level can be even higher.

Don't people take responsibility for their own actions anymore? When someone becomes a firefighter, there are inherent risks. Among them are inhaling a lot of smoke, working in perilous conditions like burning buildings, and enduring all sorts of weather conditions.

Another is the loud noise, not only from sirens but also from rescue tools and other noisy equipment.

It's important that fire truck sirens remain loud. They're loud to make sure firefighters can make it safely to an emergency scene. They are sounded - and have to be loud - to alert firefighters inside a burning building to flee if conditions become unsafe.

Anyone choosing to become a firefighter - volunteer or professional - knows that sirens are part of the employment necessities.

That's why ear plugs were invented; to provide protection. If they choose not to wear ear plugs as a protection from the sirens, then they are the ones negligent, not the manufacturers.

Will soldiers be the next group of professionals suing for noise?

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com