Chair's Message - Winter/Spring 2009

Mary M. McDaniel By Mary M. McDaniel, AuD CCC-A CPS/A

In the last issue of Update, I described what I like to call “the synergistic seven”. I said that without the implementation of all the elements of a hearing conservation program, the best you could hope for would be compliance, not effectiveness. I sincerely believe that! For a Hearing Loss Prevention Program (HLLP) to actually do what it says, you must:

  • measure the noise and control it, if feasible
  • monitor workers’ hearing
  • provide hearing protectors and enforce proper use
  • train the exposed worker, and
  • maintain records of the program

Along with these requirements, program evaluation will help move you from a compliant program to an effective program.

That being said, I’m now in a position to opine that what I’ve been preaching for all these years is, very likely, the wrong approach. Recently I’ve spent a good deal of time preparing and delivering management and employee training sessions. This is where it’s at, folks! This is where we can all make a difference. As our respected colleague and friend, Don Gasaway, used to say, “to prevent noise-induced hearing loss - aim between the ears”.

As you read this edition of Update, we are celebrating the 26th anniversary of the OSHA Hearing Conservation Amendment. We’ve lived and worked with this regulation for lo these many years and, still, we’re fighting the noise-induced hearing loss battle.

What’s wrong with this picture? We’ve been assessing noise. We’ve done millions of hearing tests. The HPD manufacturers keep giving us new and improved products and assessment tools. Don’t get me started on the hoops we’re jumping through to keep records! Yet, we continue to document hearing loss deemed to be “work-related”. With all the money and effort going into hearing loss prevention, why aren’t incidence rates dropping?

I’ve started to add a new “focus” in all of the training programs I deliver. I tell them, “OSHA can’t protect your hearing. NIOSH can’t protect your hearing, WISHA (in Washington we have a state OSHA program) can’t protect your hearing, your manager/supervisor/foreman/lead can’t protect your hearing, I can’t protect your hearing. What we can do is provide you with the information, motivation, rationale, tools, and encouragement to protect your own hearing. Hearing loss prevention is a personal, lifelong commitment!” This I believe with all my heart. And this is the only way we will ultimately succeed.

The other elements of the HLPP are important and play a vital role. However, these elements will work only if the individual recognizes the importance of preserving and protecting his/her most precious sense of hearing.

The value of being a CAOHC Certified Occupational Hearing Conservationist is the breadth of your training. You were not merely taught how to operate an audiometer or fit an earplug. You were provided valuable supporting information, making you qualified to speak about the importance of the compliance issues but, more importantly giving you a degree of passion about hearing loss prevention. Make it your goal to motivate the people you work with to:

  • respect and treasure their hearing;
  • not ‘give their hearing away’ to noise;
  • follow the tenets of their company’s program – not from a compliance stand point, but rather from a quality of life focus.

You have the tools, skills, and ability to impact a person’s existence. My goal for the next 26 years is to inspire people to value their hearing and to take care of it. CAOHC has prepared you to have a similar goal. I hope you’ll accept the challenge and remember . . . CAOHC, there is no equal.

 

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