Chair's Message - Fall 2011

Lee HagerBy Lee D. Hager

Urgent and Important

I am not sure how familiar you all are with Stephen Covey and his 1989 book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. While Covey describes a whole approach to personal improvement and effectiveness, I’d like for you to think about a couple of specific aspects of his approach to life that can be applied directly to our work in hearing loss prevention.One key to Covey’s approach is to think about the things we do each day in terms of both their urgency and their importance. Some of our daily tasks are urgent or time sensitive, like projects with deadlines and critical email; others are important and lead to our larger goals. The key is to realize there may be – and likely is – a difference.

In our world of hearing conservation, for example, it is urgent to get hearing tests done on time, but it is important to prevent hearing loss. What do we do when those things are in conflict? What do we do when the pressure is on to get hearing tests done, but the crush is such that we may not have the time necessary with individual noise-exposed employees to make sure they fully understand the implications of hearing loss and how to best protect themselves for the effects of noise? For further discussion on this topic, see Vickie Tuten’s article about the Risk of HOCM.

The key here may go back to another of the Covey “habits” – begin with the end in mind. Can we approach a time-sensitive effort like hearing testing while keeping in focus that our goal, our objective, our purpose is to empower our customers (the noise-exposed worker) to prevent hearing loss for themselves, their co-workers, and their families? I would contend that it is not only possible, it is essential.

Effective use of time is part of the solution, of course. Appropriate scheduling windows, having equipment ready for testing, having a thorough understanding of software capabilities, and similar things are important to make the most effective use of time for both your time and your customer. Another key, however, is to think clearly about that window of time and how the time is being used with the end in mind.

If our big picture goal is to prevent hearing loss, how will we spend the four or five minutes the customer is waiting for their turn to test? Will the customer sit in a chair awaiting their turn swapping jokes with their buddies, or will we have recent articles about noise and hearing in the news – the latest iPod™ study for example, or something about the noise levels of the most recent NASCAR event – available to put them in an “ears” state of mind? Could we have an old PC running the NIOSH HLSim hearing loss simulator (available free of charge at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/mining/products/product47.htm) in the waiting area so that they could experiment to see the effect of noise exposure at various levels and time? Could we have hearing protector fitting tools available – even as simple as a poster showing what appropriate HPD fit looks like and a mirror so customers can try for themselves?

If we can sort out and keep clear in our minds the difference between what is urgent (getting the darn tests done) and what is important (preventing noise-induced hearing loss), we can walk down the road of accomplishing both goals and make the most effective use of everyone’s time.

NHCA/CAOHC Collaboration

Determining whether a hearing loss we detect in our hearing conservation programs is related to noise exposure on the job is an important aspect of managing HCPs everywhere. There is always pressure and confusion about whether a hearing loss belongs on OSHA Form 300 as well as whether workplace noise “caused or contributed” to a hearing loss.

The work-relatedness determination can only be made by the program Professional Supervisor, a position defined and described in the US OSHA Hearing Conservation Amendment (29CFR1910.95). Your program has an audiologist or physician whose responsibility it is to conduct these work-relatedness reviews and make recommendations to the HCP program manager as to whether a hearing loss should be considered work-related and whether it should be included on the company’s Form 300. It is in your best interest, though, to have an understanding of what the work-relatedness parameters might look like to better understand your role in hearing loss prevention.

The National Hearing Conservation Association has recently developed and published some excellent guidelines to assist your professional reviewer in making that determination. The guidelines provide direction in a range of different aspects of audiometric interpretation, including audiometric configuration, the contribution of occupational and non-occupational sources of noise exposure, audiometric retest and referral, and much more. Full text of the guideline is at www.hearingconservation.org/associations/10915/files/Guidelinesforworkrelatednessdraft8.pdf.

Look for more coming from the collaboration, as NHCA and CAOHC work together on a series of webinars covering a range of hearing conservation topics in 2012. Webinar details can be found in this issue.As Covey says, begin with the end in mind. Try to plan your time to do what is urgent – dealing with the noise-exposed workers in your HCP. Keep in mind to address what is important as well – your professional development and training. When these things work together, our big picture goal of hearing loss prevention can become a reality.

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