POMONA, CA—How much of the day are American workers exposed to loud noise—loud enough that someone in their workplace has to raise his or her voice to be heard? The answer to that depends on whom you ask—employees or employers.
When Pomona-based EPIC (Ear Professionals International Corporation) Hearing Healthcare commissioned a company to ask that question as part of a survey conducted last December, it turned out that employees exposed to noise on the job think their workplace is a lot louder than employers do.
For example, 54% of the employees surveyed said the place they worked was noisy at least one hour a day. (The survey was sent to 1500 nationally representative full-time employed Americans age 18 and above.)Among the 500 benefits professionals in the survey panel, the great majority (79%) said their company’s workplace was “hardly ever” noisy.
While only 2% of the administrators surveyed said their company’s workplace was noisy more than four hours a day, employees were ten times as likely to feel that they were working in noisy conditions for more than half their day.
Not surprisingly, employees in the survey who had personal concerns about hearing loss were especially likely to perceive noise exposure at work. Two-thirds of workers with a diagnosed hearing loss and 58% of those with a suspected hearing loss answered yes to the question, “Would you describe your workday as noisy?” Among all employees asked that question, 40% said yes.
REASON FOR C0NCERN
Brad Volkmer, president and CEO of EPIC Hearing Healthcare, said that the results of the survey suggest that “employers may be underestimating the noise levels faced by employees, which could have serious consequences, given that noise exposure is the most common and preventable contributor to hearing loss.”
Volkmer noted that nearly half the employees surveyed felt that their degree of noise exposure could be damaging their hearing and more than half said it was a relief to get a break from the noise of their workplace.
Although the survey’s findings indicate that benefits professionals may be somewhat unaware of the conditions that employees in their organization work in, one question on the survey seemed to reflect their openness to helping improve those conditions.
When asked, “For which of the following reasons would you offer hearing insurance to your employees?,” between 20% and 30% of the benefits professionals selected each of the following: “To demonstrate my support of employees seeking treatment for hearing loss,” “to help my employees get discounts on hearing aids,” and “to make sure my employees get their hearing checked regularly.” Thirteen percent said they would do so “to differentiate my benefit offering.”
That is encouraging news for workers who have or may develop hearing loss. Not only would insurance coverage make hearing aids and other treatment more affordable to them, but also an employer that offers this coverage is motivated to reduce its workers’ risk of suffering hearing loss on the job.
EPIC Hearing Healthcare, which has an extensive network of audiologists and hearing healthcare physicians, says that it is the largest provider of hearing benefits in the nation. It cover millions of people through direct contracts with managed care organizations, employers, health plans, unions, and partnerships with brokers, consultants, and TPAs.