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Thread: employment and hearing loss

  1. Default employment and hearing loss

    Hello,
    I searched until I finally found an active forum and hope I can find help with problems I'm having. I hope I'm posting in the right place as well.
    I'm 48 next week, I've worn hearing aids of different types for about 9 years now. My hearing loss is severe, and is becoming a real issue on the job. I work in a power plant, I've been in this career since my 18th birthday, at various plants and positions. I work around very loud equipment. I communicate with another employee by means of a radio, many times the enviroment is too loud to understand typical communication and problems have risen due to my loss of hearing.
    I cannot wear hearing aids when I'm around the equipment, I must wear hearing protection. With my loss I cannot hear the radio well at all. This causes safety concerns to say the least.
    A few places I can wear my aids, but this job is also a very hot enviroment and one must sweat, which has caused problems several times with conventional hearing aids.
    At this point I have concerns of losing my job, I have been written up as a safety hazard. I'm exploring my options rather quick like , but I do not believe my company is being too abrupt about a decision either. I'm told that disability may be a problem because my hearing is "fixable" with aids, although I cannot wear them to perform my job duties either.
    I don't know how unique a problem this is , but it is real complicated to explain to the average person, as hearing loss isn't something the average person understands many times.
    I'm up against a wall with who to talk to ...

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    Central Alabama
    Posts
    1,812

    Default

    First they deafen you with their equipment and then label you a safety hazard? I don't know if OSHA or EEOC would like to take them on first, but I definitely think you need to get some employment legal advice now, before anything happens.

    They shouldn't treat you like that, you have rights, and don't be too easy on them. If the disability was caused by working there wouldn't workers comp be involved, instead of disability? With that hanging over their heads they would probably find a quiet job for you somewhere, instead of paying workers comp for the rest of your career. Workers comp would probably pay more than disability.
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Massachusetts USA
    Posts
    131

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    http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/deafness.html

    http://askjan.org/media/hearing.html

    Some good information on the employee/employer relationship regarding hearing loss and employment. I beleive you can ask for an accomodation for your issue that pertains to work only.

    An excerpt:
    Is an employer required to purchase a prescribed hearing device (e.g., hearing aid or cochlear implant) as a reasonable accommodation?

    An employer is not required to provide an accommodation that is primarily for personal use. Reasonable accommodation applies to modifications that specifically assist an individual in performing the duties of a particular job. Equipment or devices that assist a person in daily activities on and off the job are considered personal items that an employer is not required to provide. However, in some cases, equipment that otherwise would be considered "personal" may be required as an accommodation if it is specifically designed or required to meet job-related rather than personal needs (EEOC, 2002).

    When an employee does not own or benefit from a hearing aid, an employer may be required to provide a reasonable accommodation(s) that will enable effective communication, barring undue hardship.

    Just one example. For you active hearing protection may be the answer.
    Active Hearing Protection:Active hearing protectors use electronics to amplify signals, voices, and warning signals while suppressing harmful noise levels. Hearing protection products have a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR), which is the measure, in decibels, of how well a hearing protector reduces noise; the higher the number, the greater the noise reduction. For example, a rating of NRR 31 provides greater noise reduction than NRR 24.
    Last edited by lohearn; 06-28-2011 at 11:45 AM. Reason: add info
    Lisa,
    Audiogram:

    ...0250..0500..1000..2000..4000..6000..8000
    L...50.....35......40.....45.....40.....55.....65 Pre-Op 01/31/11
    .....50.....35......30.....40.....50.....75.....70 Post-Op 06/20/11
    .....45.....30......30.....40.....50.....75.....70 Latest 01/11/12

    R...15.....15......10......5.....10.....10.....10 06/20/11
    .....20.....15......5......10.....10.....10.....10 01/11/12

    Hearing tests are done in a sound proof booth, unfortunately life isn't lived in a sound proof booth...

  4. Default

    Interesting problem. Can you wear a cic or lyric aid while at work that would allow you to use the hearing protectors? Can you or your employer get hearing protectors that go entirely around the ear so you could wear other types of aids? Can you get a telecoil type device for your radio? The hearing professionals in the forum might have more and better information about these issues. Not sure where you are from, but if you are American, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires companies to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. You can read more about it here http://www.ada.gov/q%26aeng02.htm Good luck
    Last edited by smc; 06-28-2011 at 01:13 PM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Wales, UK
    Posts
    2,649

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by beaudro View Post
    Hello,
    I searched until I finally found an active forum and hope I can find help with problems I'm having. I hope I'm posting in the right place as well.
    I'm 48 next week, I've worn hearing aids of different types for about 9 years now. My hearing loss is severe, and is becoming a real issue on the job. I work in a power plant, I've been in this career since my 18th birthday, at various plants and positions. I work around very loud equipment. I communicate with another employee by means of a radio, many times the enviroment is too loud to understand typical communication and problems have risen due to my loss of hearing.
    I cannot wear hearing aids when I'm around the equipment, I must wear hearing protection. With my loss I cannot hear the radio well at all. This causes safety concerns to say the least.
    A few places I can wear my aids, but this job is also a very hot enviroment and one must sweat, which has caused problems several times with conventional hearing aids.
    At this point I have concerns of losing my job, I have been written up as a safety hazard. I'm exploring my options rather quick like , but I do not believe my company is being too abrupt about a decision either. I'm told that disability may be a problem because my hearing is "fixable" with aids, although I cannot wear them to perform my job duties either.
    I don't know how unique a problem this is , but it is real complicated to explain to the average person, as hearing loss isn't something the average person understands many times.
    I'm up against a wall with who to talk to ...
    Electronic earmuffs, like those made by Peltor will do AND wear the aids inside them with the telecoil setting on. Means that you will get the comms and talk-trough from your co-workers when you hit the button.
    Link to my entry in the Hidden Content section.
    Hidden Content
    Hidden Content

  6. Default

    Check out your state's Office for Vocational Rehabilitation. They are a state-run government office that specializes in helping people with a disability or handicap find and/or keep their employment. They can act as an advocate for you with your work situation. They also, at times, can assist in obtaining the necessary aids, attachments, or accessories needed to remain employed in your current job. It is well worth looking into for assistance and guidance to remain in your job.

  7. Default

    I'm overwhelmed with responses and help, I have to say thanks first. I'll try to reply and hope I don't leave anything out.

    Lohearn, thanks for all your research work, that would have taken me a few hours to search all that.
    At the moment I am exploring options, and taking in legal advice is part of it. My objective is to keep working if possible, and I think the company would like the same. Today was a regular day off, I was scheduled to work this weekend through the holiday. I got a call from one of the supervisors saying not to come in this weekend. He could not tell me why, so I called his supervisor. I get an explanation , until the safety committee figures out what to do I'm on Paid Time Off. I've never missed a day of work since my first day and it makes you feel like crap.
    But set that aside, I think what is going to happen next week is they determine what device if any might be best to use in my situation. Thats the best case scenario for me maybe. At least we get a safety issue solved and I'm back to work.
    If not, and this falls to workmans comp it's going to get ugly. I'm prepared either way. Hearing loss to me is such a curse, as you all know. You find people staring at your ears when they talk to you, wondering if your hearing them. They can't help it I suppose, I probably did the same thing when I was young and had hearing. I see it's rather insulting at my level now.
    I can see a life changing event about to take place here, and it's stressful. I'm sure i'm not the only one in here that has met challenges because of hearing loss. I'm fortunate to have everyones help, thanks again. .

  8. Default

    wow, I just read some of the ADA laws, from everyones links.
    "The ADA severely restricts the circumstances under which an employer may obtain information about an employee’s medical condition"

    Also: "The employer may not ask for medical information about the employee’s hearing impairment, but instead should counsel the employee about the performance problems"

    Already they have ask me several times for my hearing evaluations, thats not good.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    Houston, TX
    Posts
    281

    Default

    Beaudro,
    Be alert to the many technologies which may enter into the best solution.
    I am wearing In The Ear hearing aids, which have Bluetooth capability, so I am able to interface with telephones, radios, computers etc which are equipped to interface with "me". ITE aids also allow High NRR muffs to be worn over them and their feedback cancelling prevents the squeal which would have made muffs impossible not so long ago. I was able to wear my aids in the gas pipeline compressor station with electronic hearing protection and to use radios for team communications.

    While you or your employer may need to make some investments to bring the technology to bear on your problem, losing your job shouldn't be part of the equation.

    Best of Luck to you,
    TerryB
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  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Massachusetts USA
    Posts
    131

    Default

    I'm glad my research was helpful. I am lucky enough to work in a nice quiet office setting where my hearing loss isn't an issue much. The only time it seems to be a minor problem is when I'm on the phone with the phone to my good ear and a co-worker will come up to me and ask me a question, or tell me he/she wants to speak with the caller when I'm done. Problem is I can't hear the coworkker and have to say to the caller "can you hold one moment?". I'm trying to get my coworkers to write down what they need while I'm on the phone so I don't need to place my caller on hold while I deal with the coworker.

    In one of those things I sent you I saw this:
    Difficulty Wearing Hearing Protection

    • Turn-off hearing aids and use ear muffs
    • Turn-off hearing aids and use *active hearing protection, ear muffs that block sound but use electronic circuitry to transmit low-level sounds through the earmuffs
    • Remove hearing aids and use ear plugs or muffs
    • Turn-off/remove hearing aids and use communication headset that provides noise attenuation and radio communication
    • Use hearing aid turned-off, with no protector, only if the ear piece of the hearing aid is not vented and fits snugly in the ear
    • Use custom-made hi-fidelity ear plugs; see an audiologist
    I sure hope you and your employer can come to an amicable agreement and find the solution/accomodation that will let you keep your job.
    Lisa,
    Audiogram:

    ...0250..0500..1000..2000..4000..6000..8000
    L...50.....35......40.....45.....40.....55.....65 Pre-Op 01/31/11
    .....50.....35......30.....40.....50.....75.....70 Post-Op 06/20/11
    .....45.....30......30.....40.....50.....75.....70 Latest 01/11/12

    R...15.....15......10......5.....10.....10.....10 06/20/11
    .....20.....15......5......10.....10.....10.....10 01/11/12

    Hearing tests are done in a sound proof booth, unfortunately life isn't lived in a sound proof booth...

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