Guidelines For Reducing Hearing Loss Proposed at NationalConference

June 16, 2000
A panel of hearing experts has proposed new\r\nguidelines to help reduce the healthcare and economic problems\r\nassociated with noise induced hearing loss.

A panel of hearing experts gathered at last week''s National Industrial Noise and Hearing Loss Consensus Meeting has proposed new guidelines to help reduce the healthcare and economic problems associated with noise induced hearing loss (NIHL).

The meeting, which was held in Lake Geneva, Wis., was sponsored by Southern California-based Ear Professionals International Corporation (EPIC), a nationwide alliance of hearing healthcare providers.

By focusing on new technology and education/awareness programs, the panel of physicians, government officials, corporate managers and noise consultants came up with several recommendations for reducing workplace noise exposure.

"Until now, the problem of employee hearing loss has been swept under the carpet largely due to the perceived cost of prevention and treatment," said Brad Volkmer, president and CEO of EPIC. "Simply spending more money will not necessarily solve the problem. It''s a matter of spending existing money more wisely by leveraging new technology and education programs."

After nearly 30 years of OSHA regulations to manage workplace noise, NIHL remains a serious and costly problem.

According to the National Institutes of Health, NIHL caused by occupational noise is a major industrial disease affecting up to 20 million American workers.

American industry currently spends an estimated $6 billion a year on hearing-related screening and treatment, while the costs in terms of lost productivity, lawsuits and workers'' compensation have never been calculated.

The panel''s recommendations include the following.

  • Adopting new hearing test technology to screen employees. Current standardized employee hearing tests are subjective and do not measure a worker''s ability to communicate on the job.
  • Adopting hearing protection technology that also enhances communication. Advanced hearing protection devices such as headsets, protect and enhance worker communication.
  • Promote hearing education and awareness. Approximately 30 million Americans suffer from some sort of hearing loss and only 20 percent seek treatment. People choose to ignore the problem because of the stigma associated with hearing loss. Proper awareness and education can eliminate this and protect employees.

Volkmer said that the consensus meeting was an important first step toward the goal of reducing NIHL in the workplace.

"Beginning immediately, EPIC will disseminate the information gleaned from this conference to its 260 providers nationally, who will then begin working with business and industry on a local and regional level."

by Virginia Sutcliffe

About the Author

EHS Today Staff

EHS Today's editorial staff includes:

Dave Blanchard, Editor-in-Chief: During his career Dave has led the editorial management of many of Endeavor Business Media's best-known brands, including IndustryWeekEHS Today, Material Handling & LogisticsLogistics Today, Supply Chain Technology News, and Business Finance. In addition, he serves as senior content director of the annual Safety Leadership Conference. With over 30 years of B2B media experience, Dave literally wrote the book on supply chain management, Supply Chain Management Best Practices (John Wiley & Sons, 2021), which has been translated into several languages and is currently in its third edition. He is a frequent speaker and moderator at major trade shows and conferences, and has won numerous awards for writing and editing. He is a voting member of the jury of the Logistics Hall of Fame, and is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

Adrienne Selko, Senior Editor: In addition to her roles with EHS Today and the Safety Leadership Conference, Adrienne is also a senior editor at IndustryWeek and has written about many topics, with her current focus on workforce development strategies. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics. Previously she was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck?, which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list.

Nicole Stempak, Managing Editor:  Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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