“Hearing loss doesn”t win many headlines. Nor does it win much time in the doctor’s office. But maybe it should. And perhaps maybe North American employers should be the first to listen up.”
I was passed this article from the McClatchy Washington Bureau about addressing “the dollar and sense of addressing hearingloss in the workplace.” It really appealed to me as I work with a company that manufactures the “Smartest Hearing Protection in the world’– Custom Protect Ear (CPE). CPE are known as the hearing conversation specialists that have been exploring ‘the business cost of noise’. Recently I have learned (and much to my surprise) that many companies bottom line is directly attributed to safety & health program initiatives. After looking at the stats I was surprised to find that $310 per year/per employee are put toward hearing conservation programs and that does NOT include the other costs of noise, which happens to be another $3,750 per employee/per year more. Click here to see the calculation.
Who Should Care about Hearing Loss in the Workplace
Until recently I have found that the concern of hearing loss has always been taken lightly by many companies. I mean – when it comes to health and safety many companies are concerned the individual and its surroundings; like being safe around heavy operating machinery, wearing proper eye protection around certain machines, wearing hard hats in construction zones etc, but really how often do you hear about protecting your hearing in the noisy environments? I do see there is a shift happening where companies are seeing the long term effects of being exposed to a noisy workplace. That is why this is great to those dedicated to taking an interest in protecting your hearing. It is often one of the five senses we take advantage of, but really, we should t hink twice about. So as June is National Employee Wellness Month, I encourage all employees, thought leaders, influencers and companies recognize the “benefits that hearing health and proper hearing health care bring to both the employee and to the company’s bottom line. Making hearing health an integral part of North America’s workplace wellness programs simply makes good business sense.”
See Full Article on Hearing Loss in the Workplace:
- – The majority of people with hearing loss are still in the workforce. That’s more than 20 million Americans.
- – Workers with hearing loss are five times more likely to take sick-days due to severe stress than their co-workers without hearing loss. Perhaps this is because most people with hearing loss don’t get tested and treated.
- – Hearing loss is linked to a three-fold risk of falling among working-aged people (40 to 69) whose hearing loss is just mild. Falls and fall-related injuries cost billions in health care costs in the United States each year.
- – Unaddressed hearing loss often leads to isolation, anxiety, and depression. For employers, the estimated annual economic burden of depression, sadness, and mental illness is $348.04 per employee. More absences from work are due to depression, sadness, and mental health issues than from any other illness.
- – Hearing loss is linked to heart disease. Some researchers even hypothesize that hearing loss could be an early warning against heart disease — America’s number one killer — potentially presenting an opportunity for early intervention, better outcomes, and contained health care costs. Heart disease is a huge expense for American businesses, tallying $368.34 per employee per year when averaged across all employees.
- – People with untreated hearing loss lose up to $30,000 in income annually, depending on their degree of hearing loss. That’s a loss to society of $26 billion in unrealized federal taxes; and an estimated aggregate yearly income loss of $176 billion due to underemployment.
- – People with hearing loss who do not use hearing aids are nearly twice as likely to be unemployed as their peers who use hearing aids.
Moving people to acknowledge and address their own hearing loss has long been an uphill battle, largely due to the fear that people have of growing or appearing old. And because most hearing loss progresses gradually — and is not acutely life-threatening — people tend to put off dealing with it. Too often, people ignore their hearing loss for far too long, allowing it to take its toll on their quality of life, cognitive function, mental and physical well-being, relationships, and their effectiveness and opportunities in the workplace. Unfortunately, fewer than 15 percent of people are screened for hearing loss by their doctors during their annual physical exams.
For both workers and employees, the stakes on hearing health are high. Over the past generation, hearing loss grew at 160 percent of the U.S. population growth. We now live in an age in which MP3 players, ear buds, and loud recreational activities abound. What was once considered age-related hearing loss is being seen more frequently at younger ages. American workers are losing their hearing earlier on in their careers. And America’s baby boomers are aging. What’s more, as global financial conditions remain uncertain, people are staying in the workforce longer, delaying retirement. The financial and human resource risks of leaving hearing loss unaddressed in the workplace have never been so high.
The good news is that the vast majority of people with hearing loss can be helped with hearing aids. Quality of life improves for three out of four who use hearing aids. And for people with milder hearing loss, studies have shown that the use of hearing aids reduces the risk of income loss by 90 to 100 percent, and from 65 to 77 percent for those whose hearing loss is severe to moderate.
We know from experience that good communication enhances performance, productivity, job satisfaction, and results. Simply put: Unaddressed hearing loss is an unnecessary and not insoluble barrier to good communication.
Employers have a responsibility to create working environments in which individuals with hearing loss are unafraid to acknowledge and address their hearing impairment. By encouraging workers to have their hearing checked as part of the company’s workplace wellness program, those with hearing loss will be far less likely to hide it, and will be far more likely to seek treatment. Together, the employer and employee can identify the most appropriate accommodations to help ensure that a worker’s hearing loss does not interfere with job performance, productivity, safety, quality of life, morale, opportunities, or success in the workplace. Read more here:
ABOUT THE WRITER
Dr. Sergei Kochkin is Executive Director of the Better Hearing Institute in Washington DC. He can be reach by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
McClatchy Newspapers did not subsidize the writing of this column; the opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of McClatchy Newspapers or its editors.
“Normally I don’t use this blog for personal issue BUT recently I had an experience that has caused me to want to cross that line.”
I was recently at the American Society of Safety Engineers Conference (ASSE) which coincided with the National Hearing Conservation Association annual executive council meeting – a whole lot of hearing conservation in Denver this week (shh).
The conference was well attended and Custom Protect Ear was busy. In the trade show we were inundated with companies that had challenges in their hearing conservation programs asking if we could help them. If someone asked us what Denver looks like our answer would have to be 16th Street? Why? Because we spent every evening dining and walking on 16th street; a delightful mix of shops, restaurants, with free bus service running the 1/2 mile of the street.
OK enough of the travelogue. What has cause me to personalize this, is my attempt to return home, back to Vancouver BC. Stories about airline travel and what has happened to it are legend. Most of us who fly harken back to the “good old days” when flying was somewhat pleasant. I’m not sure we recognized that those were the good days back then, but with hindsight, they were certainly better. This march toward airline efficiency has delegated the process of flying to the individual and the public. We are encouraged to be our own travel agents using Expedia, Travelocity, Kayak, Orbitz, Priceline, Hotwire and others. The pricing for hotel rooms, airline seats, tours all are subject to extreme variability. We can buy or own seats directly from the airline, book our hotel rooms directly from the hotel, and even look for our luggage on line.
Before I make my point, a word of qualification. I love computers and computing. I have been computer semi literate since 1984 when I bought my first Texas Instruments P.C. I’ve travelled with a computer since Toshiba launched the 1100 dual disk drive portable. All of this is by way of saying I’m not afraid of computing. That said, I think all of us should immediately stop booking our own travel and return to using professionals. Firstly they need the work. More importantly, the airlines have made the process of booking travel a minefield of potential hurt. Let me give you an example of what happened to me just last night.
Eager to book in for my flight today, I went online to United Airlines website,as I have done many times before. I advised United that, yes I would be flying from Denver to Vancouver and no, I wouldn’t check any bags. Yes I’d like to see where I’m seated, as I have a preference to carry my luggage on the plane therefore, picking the right seat in advance allows me exit the plane as soon as possible. I often prefer to sit forward so it’s easy to exit the vessel. On United getting a forward seat is known as “Economy Plus”. United charges an additional fee for a “Plus” seat, which at the time was worth it to me. But that’s where the trouble started. In my ‘seat changing option’, the United online system offered me some alternative flight choices (I was curious and thought, why not ). My meeting was ending at noon so an earlier departure could have been worthwhile.
Here is the process I went through online:
- Click. 3 choices, 2 obviously requiring a stop enroute and a 3rd looking like it went straight to Vancouver. $75 dollar to change but getting home earlier is worth it.
- Click. Now to select a seat; this is where the wheels start to come off. The direct flight to Vancouver is actually 2 segments stopping in San Francisco. Well maybe that’s not so bad, let’s select a seat. The same seat wasn’t available on that flight, requiring me to move seats in SFO. All of this led me to regret changing flights. But wait, THERE’S NO UNDO. You cannot undo the changes you make without calling a person. OK, I can do that. A call to United Airlines was less than fruitful and here’s how it went
Here is the process I went through on the phone:
- Me: Hi there can you change my flight back to what I had originally booked with the upgrade, and get a refund on the seat change?
- United Airlines Operator: Yes we can change you back to your original flight. However we cannot refund the fee for changing flights. And No we cannot apply the original ‘upgrade fee’ for an upgrade on this flight. Sir, you would have to pay for an additional upgrade and then claim a refund from United for the ‘original’ upgrade you had already paid for.
So all in all I had to take the same flight I was booked on originally and I had to pay an additional $114 because I tried to be my own travel agent. So my advice, and as I say in my everyday business, let the people who are trained and specialized in their field to ‘do the work’. Ironically, my trip was about helping professionals fight against the ‘cost of noise’, and here in this blog I am fighting against the cost of ‘do-it-yourself travel’. The airlines are too clever and luring you into things you’ll pay for and not benefit from. And don’t even get me started on buying this “meals” on board….
The Safe-in-Sound Excellence and Innovation in Hearing Loss Prevention Awards™ honor excellent hearing loss prevention (HLP) practices in the work environment. Applicants are evaluated against key performance indicators in a review process designed to evaluate hearing loss prevention programs in each of three work sectors: construction, manufacturing and services. In addition, a fourth award for Innovation in Hearing Loss Prevention recognizes individuals and/or business entities, regardless of sector/ NAICS code affiliation.
This year Custom Protect Ear’s President, Jeffrey Goldberg attended the The Safe-in-Sound Excellence and Innovation in Hearing Loss Prevention Awards™ on February 24, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Here are the winners:
The 2012 recipients for Excellence in Hearing Loss Prevention in the Manufacturing Sector are:
Colgate – Palmolive Company is recognized for adopting 85/3 company wide, multiple noise controls studies, development of noise control measures, online, on demand noise control training in 6 languages: here are some of the points.
- – 39,000 employees, 16 Billion is sales, 60 plants.
- – Committed to world class health and safety performance
- – Every plant has an E O H S professional on staff.
- – Global standards for OH&S – noise standards are the same wherever there is a plant.
- – Reduce noise at the source, design quiet – equipment at < 82 dBA
- – Operate quiet – preventative maintenance stop noise at the source.
- – Noise reduction taught around the world (D. Driscoll slide)
- – Reduce noise at the source. Require all site to have 2 noise reduction projects per year everywhere.
- – Implemented over 250 noise reduction projects worldwide.
- – Challenged to create a zero hearing protection sites
- – Colgate will promote the winning of the award throughout the company.
Largest U.S. manufacturing plant for 3M. Recognized for all inclusive and fully integrated approach for hearing health. Fit Testing all plant personnel, Buying Quiet program. 700 in hearing conservation program out of 1,400 employees. Tapes, Filters, Post-it etc. 3 keys – Noise measurement, Noise Reduction, and Hearing conservation excellence. (371 dosimetry samples in the last year). Use the Using Ear-Fit system they tested a sample of 84 people initially: here are some of the points.
- – 55% got a good fit,
- – 24% needed training to get a good fit (+20 dBA,
- – 19% needed Training and a switch of plug and
- – 2% couldn’t be fit with any plug (Used custom of muffs)
- – Using Ear-Fit they were able to get people who had worn plugs for years. They got an Aha’ moment when they finally got a good fit and found out what that felt like, and sounded like.
- – Stock combat arms in their factory store for hunters.
The 2012 recipient for Innovation in Hearing Loss Prevention in the Construction Sector is:
The Hanford Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) is the world’s largest radioactive waste treatment plant: here are some of the points.
- – BN11 Waste Treatment & Immobilization Plant (WTP)
- – World’s largest radioactive waste treatment plant.
- – 1,100 employees in the hearing conservation program (out of 3,200).
- – Jacob Bailey, Jacob Lukins, Scott Nickerson lead the HCP
- – Much of the program adopted by WTP has been adopted by other Bechtel locations.
- – Program is considered by Bechtel to be low cost.
- – Benefits extend beyond the hearing conservation program and Bechtel considers this cheaper than the fines they might get from DOE.
- – Future projections:
- – Tool noise levels will be part of their purchase decisions in future.
- – Review cost benefit for fit testing and hearing protection devices.
Way to go all this year’s winners of The Safe-in-Sound Excellence and Innovation in Hearing Loss Prevention Awards™ . CLICK HERE TO READ PRESS RELEASE.