Proper Use of PPE and Its Relationship to Workers’ Comp Costs

Article by Kevin Ring. View Full Article

Personal Protective Equipment in the Workplace

Is your employer making sure that you have the right personal protective equipment in your hazardous workplace. How do you know.

Sparks, noise, chemicals, falling o bjects, slippery or uneven walking surfaces, flying objects and sharp edges are just a few of the hazards facing U.S. workers on a daily basis. The ideal option is to eliminate the hazard and barring that, to control a hazard at its source, perhaps by putting a barrier — such as a wall — between the worker and the hazard.

When this isn’t a feasible, other measures must be put into place to safeguard employees and prevent workplace injuries that can result in skyrocketing workers’ compensation costs for employers.

Did you know OSHA requires all employers protect their employees!

PPE - Personal Protective Equipment

To that end, OSHA requires that all employers protect their employees from workplace hazards that can cause injury by not only providing personal protective equipment (PPE) but also making sure their workers know how to use it and when to use it.

When using PPE, whether it’s safety glasses, gloves, earplugs or full body suits, employers must make sure employees have the proper training regarding:

  • - When PPE is necessary and how to properly wear it.
  • - Its limitations.
  • - How to determine if PPE is no longer effective.
  • - How to care for PPE.
  • - The process for replacing PPE.


Even though this is old news for employers, managers and even employees, non-compliance is widespread.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if all workers would just wear gloves, then more than 1 million hospital emergency visits by U.S. workers per year could be avoided. Last year, hand injuries alone cost employers over $500 million dollars (lost time, settlements, etc.). Dont even get us started on the cost of noise – and what it really can equate to. 

Below is a checklist of items you may want to check if your company is non-compliant.

CHECK THE CULTURE

If there is a lack of commitment in creating a culture that requires employees to automatically don PPE when necessary, employers don’t need to look beyond themselves.

A recent survey commissioned by the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) of safety influencers in the heavy construction industry revealed that the main reason workers chose not to wear PPE when needed was because “employers don’t require or enforce usage.” While many employers realize that the use of PPE can pay huge dividends in workplace safety, plus result in higher morale and lower insurance premiums, many do not update their equipment, assess new situations or require rigorous enforcement.

The adverse result is loss of manpower (which few companies already running on the bare minimum can afford) and higher workers’ compensation costs. For some companies, a high number of injuries also hinders their competitiveness when bidding on certain contracts. A high price to pay for the low price of a carton of safety goggles.

REASONS FOR REFUSING

So why are some employees still reluctant to wear PPE? A Kimberly-Clark professional survey taken at the 2008 National Safety Council Congress and Expo and the 2009 American Society of Safety Engineers’ conference found that discomfort was given as the most common reason.

A good solution is to involve employees in the selection, and to have a select group that is representative of employees using the gear try different samples and test it. It may be that more than one style is needed to accommodate the work force.

The second most common reason is the belief that PPE is not necessary for the task. Employees may have performed the same task for many years and never been injured. Showing employees videos of what can happen or having someone who sustained an injury speak to the group is the most effective way to combat this excuse.

Next is the concern that PPE is unattractive or doesn’t fit properly. If employees are content with their appearance, they will be more likely to use PPE. Increasingly, manufacturers are looking to improve style; offering some options such as customization, color and style can increase use.

UPDATING REGULATIONS

Even regulations can be outdated and ineffective. Falls are the leading cause of injury and fatalities in the workplace, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consensus of Fatal Occupational Injuries. Launching a sweeping overhaul of the walking-working surfaces and PPE standards (PPE) to prevent injuries from slips, trips and falls, OSHA acknowledged that most of its existing standards for walking-working surfaces are more than 30 years old and inconsistent with both national consensus standards and more-recently promulgated OSHA standards addressing fall protection.

Citing the 2009 death of a worker at a chocolate processing plant who fell from an unguarded work platform, OSHA ‘s proposed rulemaking includes significant revisions to the existing general industry scaffold standards to better protect workers from such injuries.

As the rule stands now, for the most part, employers only are required to use guardrail systems. Under the proposed rule, employers would have to install a second layer of safety in place by also choosing the most effective fall protection option as added protection, ranging from the traditional safety nets to self-retracting lanyards. The proposed rule also would allow OSHA to fine employers who allow workers to climb certain ladders without fall protection.

In proposing the new rule, OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels referred to the 2009 incident by stating, “This is a clear and grave example of the human cost incurred when fall protection safeguards are absent, ignored or inadequate.”

PPE AND THE BOTTOM LINE

For employers, PPE can protect not only their employees but also their company’s bottom line. An auto parts manufacturer in Michigan, which traditionally saw its claims costs increasing at the rate of 7-8 percent annually, now suddenly saw them escalating over 20 percent. A certified WorkComp advisor (CWCA) reviewed all open and prior injury claims, OSHA logs and safety committee minutes, and found that part of the problem was a safety issue centered on employees not wearing safety glasses.

By working closely with the safety committee and the human resources department, they were able to reduce the number of reported injuries and near misses by implementing a PPE training session and a “safe reporting without retaliation” rule that allowed proper reporting of safety glasses issues among co-workers. This action helped in part to reduce the number and size of the company’s workers’ compensation claims and lower its premium costs from $430,302 in 2004 to $185,000 in 2008. The company now uses its excellent safety record to beat the competition for work; a win-win for the employer and the employees.

Article by Article by Kevin Ring. Click here to view article.


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Upcoming Tradeshows

The Custom Protect Ear team actively attends ongoing Tradeshow and events in various communities. This is an excellent time to learn more about the dB Suite of Products: dB Blocker, dB Com and dB Life.

UPCOMING TRADE-SHOWS

January 11-13, 2013 Edmonton Motorcycle Show – Northlands 

January 17-20, 2013 Vancouver Motorcycle Show – Tradex Center 

March 11-13, 2013 – Indiana Safety Show – Indiana Convention Centre 

Plus if you already know about our hearing protection and communication products, and want some of your own. Come to us at our booth and we will do ear impressions right there.

VISIT US AND GET CUSTOM FIT SOLUTIONS

Our custom fitting process usually takes about 10 minutes and typically begins with one of our highly trained experts visiting the customer’s plant or workplace in order to do the fitting on-site.

We begin by first inspecting the ear to make sure it’s safe to take an impression. Then an oto-dam is placed inside the ear to protect the eardrum. Impression material is prepared and carefully injected into the client’s ear. The material hardens quickly, and moments later, the impression is gently removed.

The impression creates an exact replica of the wearer’s ear canal and outer ear. This ensures the dB Blocker seals the ear both in the canal and around the ear. Making every dB Blocker unique to the ear it fits.

See our video to learn how to wear your dB Blockers™

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K81PVu27NC0[/youtube]

Remember * dB Blockers ™ are the hearing protectors you can hear through. 


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Do You Hear What I Hear?

Checklist for Hearing Conservation (Article by Facility Safety Manager) 

CINCINNATI — From ringing bells to yule logs crackling, the sounds of the holiday season are now in the air. However, for yule cracking employees in loud workplaces, these sentimental noises may become a faint memory of the past if the proper precautions aren’t taken.

To encourage businesses to develop and maintain effective hearing protection programs, Cintas Corporation, a leader in first-aid and safety products, has identified a checklist for selecting a hearing conservation partner for testing, training and hearing protection equipment.

“Unfortunately, hearing loss is an invisible threat within many workplace environments,” said John Amann, Vice President, Cintas. “It’s important to establish a comprehensive solution for hearing protection and partner with experts who provide employers with helpful tools and knowledge. We’ve combined our training and hearing protection equipment offerings with the on-site testing expertise of accredited professionals from Examinetics to ensure hearing conservation is an ongoing priority at work.”

The top must-have attributes for a hearing conservation partner include:

1. Industry knowledge: Partners should understand workplace hazards and be positioned to share that expertise with customers’ employees through on-site training sessions. For instance, many safety directors don’t realize that employees typically wear too much hearing protection. This backfires because employees either can’t hear, putting safety at risk, or remove earplugs or earmuffs in order to hear, thus compromising hearing health. Research also shows exposure to toxic agents such as carbon monoxide and organic solvents, such as those found in paint thinners, can impact hearing, especially when combined with noise. Partners with industry knowledge can share this information with safety directors to encourage everyday safety.

2. Onsite testing: Offsite hearing testing can lead to reduced productivity from workers and unnecessary stress for managers. Partners with mobile testing units simplify the process by bringing testing directly to worksites. Onsite testing also allows organizations to see results right away.

3. An extensive database: Since hearing loss is often gradual, it’s important to track the progression of employees’ hearing health over time. Partners can assist by using a secure database to keep baseline exam results on file to compare with new test results. Employers should have 24/7 access to test results and reports and understand how employee testing results compare to industry standards.

4. Testing in a calibrated environment: In some cases, noises may disrupt the accuracy of a hearing test. Hearing conservation partners can ensure results are precise by continuously monitoring the test environment during testing. This makes it easy to identify if a loud noise has compromised accuracy and the worker needs to be retested.

5. Proper certifications: OSHA requires hearing testing to be conducted by an audiologist, physician or technician. Preferably, technicians will be certified by the Council for Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation (CAOHC). However, many offsite clinics have high staff turnover rates and choose to forgo CAOHC certification for employees. Individuals should have knowledge of OSHA, MSHA (mining) and FRA (railroad) hearing regulations. Ideal partners will also employ CAOHC-certified professional supervisors who have specific expertise in hearing testing compliance.

6. Multilingual options: Testing needs to accommodate employees whose first language is not English, so organizations should look for partners with testing in alternate languages such as Spanish. In Canadian companies alternative languages include French.

7. National reach: Consistent testing is important, especially for organizations with locations that span across cities and states. Partners with national reach can conduct testing at each location and compare results from one area to another. This allows companies to determine which locations need to improve hearing conservation efforts.

8. Personal protective equipment options: Personal protective equipment (PPE), such as hearing earmuffs and earplugs, keeps employees safe in noisy environments. A partner should be able to recommend the correct type of protection, have a variety of options to fit different needs and people, and regularly replenish inventory so stock is never low. This will ensure employees have proper fitting and appropriate protection.

“A great hearing conservation program includes top-quality testing performed under the direction of an experienced and certified supervisor,” said Cindy Bloyer, manager of Audiology Services, Examinetics. “Combining this with proper training and equipment means that workers will be able to hear everything from job instructions to seasonal sounds for years to come.”

Thank you Facility Safety Manager.

Great Article! holiday image

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A Holiday message from Custom Protect Ear

Custom Protect Ear 2012 Recap

Excessive NoiseAs we embark on a New Year we tend to reflect into the past; the decisions we’ve made, the people we’ve helped and this things we have done to take care of ourselves. In the time of an uncertain economy and dramatic environmental change we encourage everyone to do a little something to help those in need and as well as preserve your own health – as you are useless to everyone if you are not well.

We encourage everyone to incorporate health and safety into their everyday lives. 

So today as you rush to get to the store to get the Turkey or that last gift, leave a little early, be a little aware and take precaution, as you are one of many people rushing to conquer the same goal. Accidents and trauma can be prevented with precaution, awareness and safety. 

A message worth listening too.

excessive noise

As Custom Protect Ear is in the business of hearing protection and health and safety it is our wish, for those who are able to, avoid excessive noise. When your world is quieter everything makes more sense, allowing you to focus and concentrate on what’s important. For those who are unable to avoid excessive noise induced environments we wish you time, to rest your ears and the self awareness to make sure that it happens.

We want everyone to welcome 2013 with the same level of awareness and joyful noise as 2012.

Be Safe – Seasons Greetings.
Custom Protect Ear 

 

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Hearing Protection for the Oil Industry

Hearing conservation standards in Oil Industry

The economics of the oil patch have seldom been better. But even with an abundance of jobs, there’s still a shortage of workers. In this economic environment, you have bigger things to worry about than your employees’ hearing.

But with Custom Protect Ear (CPE), your operations can gain productivity and look after your workers’ best interests at the same time. Specializing in personalized hearing protection, we’ve helped many companies, including Albion Sands and Imperial Esso, oil sand protection overcome performance limitations and maintain the highest hearing conservation standards.

From the very start, CPE assesses the noise levels and working conditions each person faces. Then we determine the best protectors for the individual and make the appropriate recommendations for optimal productivity, protection, and comfort.

Prevent Hearing Damage with The Grip

Usually, workers in grimy environments lean toward disposable earplugs even though they’re an inadequate form of protection. But disposable earplugs become filthy because of dirty hands. The fact that CPE’s dB Blockers are not disposable is a huge benefit. Your workers won’t have to remove or adjust their protectors during the day and grit grime doesn’t get in their ears. Plus Custom Protect Ear offers Intrinsically Safe Smart Muffs.intrinsically safe smart muffs

They can use The Grip to remove their protects without ever touching the earpiece. dB Blockers can be inserted with clean hands at the start of the day for the whole day. As well, they’re washable, they cost less to use and they’ve a solid defence against hearing damage.

In large facilities like petrochemical plants that have a low concentration of workers, radio communication keeps workers in touch with plant supervisors. When integrating dB Blockers with I/S radios, CPE combines dB Blockers and intrinsically safe communication connections. This facilitates and enhances radio communication, thereby, avoiding misunderstandings and reducing the need to repeat conversation. People can also talk to each other or hear radio calls without removing their protectors, while staying protected at all times.

Upholding Conservation Standards at the Oil Patch

dB Blockers also feature a coloured exterior, so supervisors can immediately see if workers are wearing them. For enormous oil sands plants with thousands of employees, upholding hearing conservation standards becomes much easier.

With your workers’ hearing properly protected by dB Blockers, you can rise above all these challenges, enabling you to establish better employee relations to attract more workers and gain further productivity.

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Hearing Torment Effects Everyone…

Loud noises effects everyone from Musicians to Industrial trade workers to an everyday teenager.

As the world gets noisier we need to protect our hearing more than ever.  It may be the last thing we think of – BUT THINK ABOUT IT… what would you do if your ears were always ringing – or  if you could not hear your baby cry – or listen to the sounds of one of your favourite bands like Coldplay.  As a fan of Coldplay I wanted to share this article with everyone who thinks that “Naaa this wont happen to me”… Because YES it can!

Terrible ringing in his ears and excruciating headaches’: Chris Martin’s secret ten-year hearing torment

For the past decade we can reveal the Coldplay star has also been plagued with the excruciating ear condition, tinnitus

Covered up: Chris wears discreet ear moulds on stage
Covered up: Chris wears discreet ear moulds on stage

What Moulded Ear Plugs did for Chris

Coldplay star Chris Martin has performed in front of millions of screaming fans since hitting the big time 12 years ago. But for the past decade we can reveal that the star has also been plagued with the excruciating ear condition, tinnitus. The seven-time Grammy winner was warned by doctors that the debilitating ringing in his ears – coupled with splitting headaches – could end his stellar music career. And the 35-year-old, who is married to actress Gwyneth Paltrow, must wear earplugs to save his hearing. Speaking for the first time about his agonizing ailment, he said: “I’ve had tinnitus for about 10 years, but since I started protecting my ears it hasn’t got any worse – touch wood. “The band use moulded filter plugs, similar to dB Blockers or in-ear monitors. See Coldplay on our “Protecter to the Stars” page. You can use industrial headphones similar to Smart Muffs – but they look strange at a party.”

 

 

Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin walking in New York, America
Listen up: Chris and Gwyneth in 2003

 

Hearing Protection: Pay it Forward

Chris believes that listening to blaring music as a teenager was the root cause and he wants others to avoid the same fate. He said: “Looking after your ears is unfortunately something you don’t think about until there’s a problem. I wish I’d thought about it earlier.” The star insists his two children, Apple, seven, and Moses, six, are never exposed to loud music. During 2005’s Live 8 concert at Hyde Park in London, Apple wore giant ear defenders. Last night a friend of the star said: “Chris suffered with terrible ringing in his ears and excruciating headaches. “If he hadn’t sought treatment, he might not be performing today.

“When he does perform, he wears ear monitors to prevent hearing loss.”

 

 

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow and daughter Apple watch Coldplay singer Chris Martin perform on stage at "Live 8 London" in Hyde Park
Muffled: Gwyneth and Apple in 2005

 

Tinnitus – a problem usually affecting the over-55s – can result in permanent deafness if untreated. Chris is now fronting a new charity campaign – Action On Hearing Loss – with sufferers including rapper Plan B and 80s pop legend Gary Numan. Plan B, 28, said: “At first I thought it was trains rushing by as I live near a railway line. It’s caused by years of being subjected to loud music.” Gary Numan, 54, also revealed he was no longer able to mix music after damaging his ears during the peak of his career.
He added: “I didn’t look after my ears and I’m in trouble.”

 

Coldplay scoop the award for Best British Band
Band mates: Chris with the rest of Coldplay

* For more information Read Article Here. 

 

 Action on Hearing Loss: A charity with a great cause.

Action on Hearing Loss is an Organization in the UK that promotes a world where hearing loss doesn’t limit or label people, where tinnitus is silenced – and where people value and look after their hearing.

One of their promotional campaign is: 5 Ways to Protect Your Hearing

Music is the soundtrack to our lives

BUT every time you listen to loud music for too long, you increase the risk of damaging your hearing. If your exposure to loud music is repeated regularly, the damage could be permanent.

Remember – M.U.S.I.C.

M.U.S.I.C. M: MP3 players can be too loud for your ears - turn it down! U: Use chillout zones in clubs and take regular breaks from the loudest areas. S: Stand back from speakers - your ears will thank you! I: Invest in some noise cancelling headphones. C: Carry earplugs with you - they won't block music out, just make it safer.

Learn more about Action on Hearing Loss.  

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ProtectEar USA

Protect ear usa American-flag-

Protectear-USA-Logo-b.sm

Custom Protect Ear is now associated with ProtectEar USA

November 25. 2012, Surrey BC, Canada.
Custom Protect Ear (CPE) would like to inform all of our respected readers and customers that we, Custom Protect Ear, is associating with ProtectEar USA to further our position in the U.S. market.

Through this association Custom Protect Ear and ProtectEar USA will be better positioned to serve their US clients. This association will NOT change the dB Blocker or dB Com pricing structure or the existing sales representative(s) – everything will remain as is.

For Custom Protect Ear Customers

The ProtectEar USA and Custom Protect Ear partnership will affect the accounting departments accounts payable process. To ensure there is no confusion we have sent the accounting department and the operations department a letter indicating the payment process changes. We value all of our customers’ business is at ProtectEar USA and Custom Protect Ear.

If you have any questions or need to other arrangements please contact us at 1-800-520-0220 ext 306 or click here for contact information. 

 

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Hearing Loss in the Mining Industry

The most common occupational illness for miners is hearing loss. Immediately noise levels come to mind – the large drilling machines, close proximity to loud machines and the reverberation off the walls of the mine. According to NIOSH and the CDC, by age 60, 75% of miners have a hearing impairment due to exposure to noise jumping castle.
Hearing Protection for Miners in the Mining Industry
Hearing loss is 100% preventable and unfortunately, once it occurs, there is no cure. You may not even notice that the damage has occurred right away, because it causes no pain and the damage is not visible.

If you are a miner and have loss of hearing, you may experience these symptoms:

• Difficulty hearing warning signals
• Difficulty hearing what someone is saying
• Accidents
• Ringing or buzzing in your ears
• After you leave a noisy area, your hearing may seem dull or muffled
• Headaches
• Tiredness
• Stress

Miners Can Protect Their Hearing with Custom Ear Plugs

Do not wait to experience any of these symptoms before you protect your ears with hearing protection. Custom Protect Ear dB Blockers™ custom fit earplugs are more comfortable and offer superior hearing protection to any disposable earplug. However, did you know that they are more cost effective as well?

You can reduce your hearing protection costs by 60% over five years when an entire facility is fit.
dB Blockers™ are more comfortable because there is only one way for them to fit and they made for each individual. They also make it easy for workers to communicate with each other because of our proprietary tuned filter that allows users to hear better with the plugs in than if they take them out.

Our product is safer for miners because it allows them to hear. Hear warning signals, hear backup alarms, and hear the roof. Our dB Blockers™ are made from a non-flammable, hypoallergenic silicon blend (called SkinSoft™) unlike disposable earplugs, which are flammable and make users prone to ear infections. Disposable foam earplugs also swell when they come in contact with water or perspiration.
We urge you to consider Custom Protect Ear dB Blockers for your mine for a product that can be worn for an entire shift because if you can’t hear, it’s not clear.

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CPE Leads on Noise Suppression Technology Hearing Protection

Custom Ear Protect (CPE) has been in the hearing protection business for over three decades. Their ability to produce a superior custom fit product at the cost of disposable ear plug is an accomplishment in itself. Not just cost, but quality factors have brought CPE to take a leading stance on noise suppression technology.  Custom Ear Plugs dB Blockers from Protect Ear

Thousands of companies worldwide trust their employees to CPE’s extensive line of hearing protection devices. Some of the biggest brand names in the business use dB Blockers and Sensear products offered by Custom Ear Protect.

From Alcoa to Kraft, Nabisco, Shell, Boeing, Chevron, Goodrich, Toyota, Air Canada, Honda, International Paper and Sterling Trucks.  We believe everyone, regardless of what size company they work at, deserves the best quality hearing protection.

Sound energy is expressed in decibels and is the bases of the name for dB Blockers. A test showing the noise levels within a specific plant is determined by performing a Dosimetry test. This test will show the full extent of noise your workers are subjected to over long periods of time.

The final results will determine which dB Blocker a company should use to best protect their employees. CPE can arrange this test and help in choosing the right custom ear plugs that fit the outcome of the report. All noise is not the same and without the specifics it can be difficult to understand which protection is best.

Custom ear plugs are a major factor in use and compliance within the workplace. With their highly trained staff a fitting takes just a few minutes. An impression is made of the ear and canal so that every dB Blocker is a perfect fit to comfort and safety alike. CPE has a FitRight Guarantee with everything they do, if the product doesn’t fit, you don’t pay.

A final process of workplace implementation of the hearing protection devices is yet another important step. We at CPE have set programs to help make sure that every worker is in compliance with the safety protection being offered. Not only is the color of our hearing devices easy to see, but the comfort and fit, will make anyone want to wear their devices all day, every day.

If you would like CPE to arrange a  noise dosimetry test for your company, please sign up for a noise level exposure test, submit a Dosimetry Test Request form (80K pdf).

Acrobat Reader is required to view pdf files. Free download if needed.

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Decisions endless when it’s hard to hear

 Getting a hearing aid is a complex and expensive task, but the technology has come a long wayhearing protection

Abi Rezai is tested and fitted for a hearing aid by audiologist Sarah Helmel at Vancouver Hearing Centre on West Broadway. Getting a hearing aid can be a long, daunting process. Photograph by: Arlen Redekop, PNG, Files , Vancouver Sun Read Article:  

Custom Protect Ear wanted to share this article with our audience because we promote hearing protection and hearing conservation news and technology. This article is about age-related hearing loss and how consumers can seek assistance when acquiring the new digital advanced hearing aids.

Audiologists

Decisions endless when it’s hard to hear

Abi Rezai is a stylish kind of guy who wouldn’t be shopping for hearing aids if they were still those bulky, putty-coloured jobs you can spot across a room. “I wouldn’t have them if it was like one of the big ones,” he said while being fitted for a second, tiny behind-the ear hearing aid that all but disappears under his hair. “Glasses,” he pointed out, “can be cool. But with hearing aids, it’s not the case.”

At 65, Rezai is part of a growing market that hearing aid companies want to cultivate – baby boomers who find it tricky to follow conversations, particularly in a noisy room, and don’t want to sit out the party. “I’d say, ‘Yes, yes,’ but I should be saying no,” he laughed. Rezai got one hearing aid four months ago and liked it enough to recently return to the Vancouver Hearing Centre to be fitted for his other ear. “It will never be like a natural ear when I was young, but it is better.” There’s no doubt that a lot of people could benefit from hearing aids. Studies in Canada, Europe and the U.S. have found between 20 and 30 per cent of people over the age of 60 have some hearing loss and that rises to 40 to 60 per cent in the over-75 age group.

Yet a report earlier this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association found only about 20 per cent of people with hearing loss ever get a hearing aid. There are plenty of reasons for that. For one, they’re expensive. A single hearing aid can easily cost from about $1,500 to $3,000 or more depending on the features. That’s almost always an out-of-pocket expense because they are not covered under medicare, except for children or people on social assistance. Some extended health plans through unions or the workplace offer limited coverage.

Nor do hearing aids cure a hearing loss; they amplify sound. So for most people who have gradual hearing loss over a number of years, walking out of the clinic into the blaring traffic can be overwhelming. Many give up.

Audiologists Sarah Helmel and Celia McDermott of the Vancouver Hearing Centre on Broadway said they usually adjust a patient’s hearing aid to a level that’s lower than normal hearing to let them gradually get used to all the noise they haven’t heard in a long time: the sounds of a house, the hum of the city, the scream of a siren. The devices can be adjusted upward when people are ready.

For University of British Columbia professor John Robinson, 59, the needs of his work left him no choice but to get a sophisticated hearing aid. He has been deaf in one ear since he was a child so when he found out the other side was starting to lose some sensitivity, he readily got one.

“It’s a big issue when I’m in meetings or giving a lecture or talk,” he said after a hearing test with McDermott. “Some people might feel it’s a sign of advanced age, but in my case, I felt I’d better have one good ear.”

Even with the hearing aid he still has some trouble making out questions from members of the audience in a large lecture theatre. That’s because hearing aids pick up ambient sound, making crowds the most difficult situation to navigate. Directional microphones inside the aids can pick up sound from a single direction, for instance, but can’t erase interference from someone coughing or whispering in front of that speaker. While digital hearing aids can automatically adjust to different environments – a quiet room versus riding the bus – the results are better than older models, but still not perfect.

Age-related hearing loss usually affects the high-pitched sounds first, in particular the sibilant sounds of consonants like “s” “f” and “th” and their counterparts in daily life. “It was a very weird sensation to crumple paper,” Robinson said of his first few days with a hearing aid. “These kinds of sounds were suddenly very audible.”

Newer hearing aids are digital and are programmed via a wireless connection to a computer using the information an audiologist gleans though testing hearing with recorded tones and the spoken word. The choices of features are complex and the key is to find the right aid for the right person. A younger, gadget-loving user might be keen to have one with a Bluetooth capability for phone calls, for instance. But an 85-year-old with arthritis in her fingers will want something simpler with larger batteries that are easier to handle.

Consumer Reports magazine produced some sobering research in 2009 that said shopping for hearing aids was tedious, expensive, and fraught with upselling and jargon. It used secret shoppers who later consulted with audiologists and found about 60 per cent of the hearing aids purchased weren’t right for the customer because they amplified too much or too little. It recommended that customers find a hearing aid dispenser who’s going to spend time with them, find out about their life and why they need a hearing aid, and discuss the pros and cons of various types and prices. In B.C., both audiologists and hearing instrument practitioners are allowed to test hearing and fit people with hearing aids. People sometimes start with a specialist like an ear, nose and throat doctor after being referred by their family doctor. That step is probably not necessary for age-related hearing loss, called presbycusis, because it doesn’t have a treatable medical cause, but is a general weakening of tiny hairlike nerve cells that sense and transmit sound in the inner ear.

Audiologists have at least a master’s degree in audiology – offered at several universities in Canada including UBC – following an undergraduate degree. Hearing instrument practitioners have two years of training at the college level. Both fall under the same governing body under the province’s Health Professions Act.

Brent Clayson is a Prince George audiologist who sits on the provincial council of the B.C. Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists. He said the complexity of options and need for adjustments requires ongoing interaction between a customer and a professional. Sure, you can buy some decent hearing aids at a good price online, but will they work the way you want right out of the box? “That’s why you want to deal with someone face-to-face,” said Clayson.

 Read Full Article by Vancouver Sun. 


 

 

 

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