Monday, August 15, 2011

Hearing Loss is no laughing matter

            My hearing was recently challenged while listening to the news on my clock radio’s small speaker, which competed with a noisy window air conditioner.  The story described the government’s displeasure with a former national security employee charged with giving away secrets who was avoiding going to trial thanks to his flea market.   As a flea marketer I wondered what caused the government’s ire until I realized that the government was not upset with his flea market but with his plea bargain.  The episode was momentarily humorous to me until I considered the daily plight of those faced with hearing issues. Among them, according to a New York Times story, are New York City policemen.
“The New York Police Department’s policy regarding a job candidate’s hearing ability is straightforward enough: Applicants who fail a basic hearing test will not be hired as officers. But for police officers already on the job, the policy is not so clear-cut.
After years of informally allowing officers to wear hearing aids, and even paying for some, the department in late 2009 began enforcing a ban on the hearing devices, forcing older officers who had them to retire and instructing younger officers to stop wearing them at work.
Two of those forced to retire have filed a complaint with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, contending that the policy forbidding hearing aids is discriminatory toward those with hearing loss…”
Interestingly enough, New York’s police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, himself wears hearing aids, but as a member of the department’s civilian leadership, he is exempt from its physical and age-related requirements.
      Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) Executive Director Brenda Battat said that “hearing loss is a health issue that has long been misunderstood and stigmatized in our society. Banning the use of hearing aids that help police officers to function at their best is inconceivable and perpetuates the myths and stereotypes that are still prevalent about hearing loss today.” HLAA estimates that 17% of people in the United States have some degree of hearing loss, that’s 36 million people. HLAA works to disseminate useful information while helping direct those with a hearing loss to resources that can help them.  You can reach HLAA in Bethesda, MD at 301-657-2248, or Hearing loss is no laughing matter.


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