UPDATE: Council for Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation

Safe-in-Sound Award: And the Winner Is . . .

By Scott Schneider

The Safe-in-Sound Excellence in Hearing Loss Prevention Award™ is a partnership between the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the National Hearing Conservation Association (NHCA) and the Council for Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation (CAOHC). The objective of this initiative is to obtain information about real-world successful hearing loss prevention programs and public health practices currently used in industry and disseminate it widely. By disseminating evidence-based strategies, Safe-in-Sound™ enables other groups to effectively advance hearing loss prevention practice.

The 2019 Safe-in-Sound Excellence in Hearing Loss Prevention Award for Innovation was awarded to Kurt Yankasas of the Office of Naval Research for the accomplishments of his Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Research Program.

Kurt’s program funds a wide portfolio of research on noise control for ships, aircraft, and equipment; NIHL surveillance and risk evaluation; medical treatment of NIHL; and improved hearing protection for Navy personnel (approximately one in four sailors suffer from NIHL). Work funded by the research portfolio has led to the development of innovative solutions to difficult problems like ship noise control. In addition, Kurt’s focus on the costs of both NIHL and tinnitus to the Navy led to a unique program focus on preventing “auditory injury.” Other examples of the program’s technological innovations include a smartphone app that provides information about hearing protection and a computer program for designing ships that have noise control features.

Presentation slides about the NIHL Research Program are available on the Safe-in-Sound website.

Safe-in-Sound Award™ winning stories are shared and showcased at special award ceremonies and in press releases disseminated to the occupational health and hearing research communities. Past winners of Safe-in-Sound Awards include individuals who developed community hearing loss prevention programs, academics who have studied and developed products for hearing loss prevention, companies who have implemented exemplary hearing loss prevention programs. The common theme is their role in improving working conditions for those exposed to hazardous noise.

Call for Nominations

Are you or someone you know passionate about preserving workers’ hearing? If you are making extra efforts to prevent hearing loss, you might be eligible for the Safe-in-Sound Award. The two award categories are Excellence and Innovation.

The Excellence Award is meant for those employers that go out of their way to ensure the safety of employees’ hearing by implementing exemplary hearing loss prevention programs. Nominees for the excellence award should employ a comprehensive approach to hearing loss prevention that goes above and beyond. Judges evaluate candidates for the excellence award based on what they have done to prevent hearing loss in the workplace. Safe-in-Sound judges, for example, consider whether award nominees are controlling exposures to the minimum requirements (e.g., OSHA standards) or to more protective levels, such as those recommended by NIOSH. Are they evaluating their program and improving it each year where deficiencies are found? Award winners are those who go above and beyond compliance and demonstrate a true commitment to protecting worker hearing.

The Innovation Award is meant to recognize individuals or organizations for their dedication to fostering, creating and implementing new and unique evidence-based advances in the prevention of hearing loss and creating innovative solutions to real workplace hearing loss prevention challenges. These advances can include policy development, program development and implementation, advocacy and outreach efforts as well as unique product applications and their effectiveness. The award is not intended to be an endorsement of a commercial product. For the innovation award, Safe-in-Sound judges look for important contributions that will have a significant impact on hearing loss prevention. Such advances can include policy development, program development and implementation, advocacy and outreach efforts, and unique product applications and their effectiveness.

NIOSH, NHCA, and CAOHC are accepting nominations for the next round of Safe-in-Sound Awards. You can nominate others by June 7, 2019, or you can nominate yourself by July 15, 2019. Information on how to apply for the Safe-in-Sound Award is available online. An additional document (PDF) provides useful tips on how to submit a strong application.

Join the small group of award winners who have achieved new heights in hearing loss prevention. More information about the awards is available on the Safe-in-Sound website​​​.

Scott Schneider, CIH, FAIHA, ​recently retired as director of Occupational Safety and Health for the Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America.

Note that Safe in Sound is different than OSHA’s Safe and Sound program. For information on that, visit OSHA.gov.

Opinions expressed in the UPDATE newsletter are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect official CAOHC policy.