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Amber Kelly’s Spring 2018 Winning Scholarship Essay


Addressing Hearing Loss in At Risk Employees

According to the National Institute of Health, up to 15% of adults in the United States report difficulty hearing, making it the most common sensory deficit in the country (NIH CITATION). While hearing loss can be caused by a variety of damaging factors, the hearing loss resulting from noise exposure is considered sensorineural hearing loss (Heuther and McCance, 2017). Unfortunately, this damage within the ear results in an irreversible reduction in function, making prevention an even more important topic.

In order to successfully address the issue of hearing loss, it is important to first understand the anatomy of the ear, and how sensorineural hearing loss occurs. The ear can be divided into three separate areas including the external ear, middle ear, and the inner ear, all of which are involved in sound conduction. The external ear is the visible portion of the ear, leading into middle ear, separated by the tympanic membrane, or ear drum (Heuther and McCance, 2017). As sound waves pass through the middle ear, the waves result in vibration of the tympanic membrane, which is transmitted into the inner ear via small bones within the canal (Heuther and McCance, 2017). Inside the inner ear, a chamber-like structure called the cochlea contains tiny hair cells. When these hairs are stimulated, as a result of sound conduction, an impulse is sent to the brain, where the sensory message can be interpreted (Heuther and McCance, 2017).

Permanent damage to these hair cells are confirmed to result from prolonged exposure to loud noises like those present in the daily work environment of carpenters and plumbers. The National Institute of Health claims that damage is most often the result of loud noises at or above 85 decibels, about the sound of a bulldozer (NIH CITATION). For these workers to spend eight hours a day in these jungles of loud machinery, it’s no surprise that these workers suffer from hearing loss. Furthermore, the importance of prevention is emphasized when compared to the incredible cost of treatment and education related to hearing loss. According to the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing, the effective prevention of hearing loss could save up to $150 billion dollars in health care and education costs (Neitzel, Swinburn, Hammer, & Eisenberg, 2017).

As a future healthcare provider I will always encourage the general population to make healthy choices and protect themselves in risky situations, whether it be wearing sunscreen or drinking enough water. Unfortunately, telling someone to do something in no way means it will be done, let alone be done successfully. In order to combat this health issue, employees need to be provided with the proper education and the proper equipment required to protect themselves. Implementing an educational program for employees regarding prevention of health risks of these jobs would certainly be less costly than the enormous costs of the treatment of affected employees in addition to a post-injury educational program. In addition, employees should be educated on the proper use and fit of the protective equipment and when the equipment should be replaced. By encouraging employees to make wise choices on the job and providing them with knowledge, individuals will have the power to control their own wellbeing.

Heuther, S. E., & McCance, H. L. (2017). Understanding pathophysiology (6th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.
National Institutes of Health. (2017, February 7). Noise-induced hearing loss.
Neitzel, R. L., Swinburn, T. K., Hammer, M. M., & Eisenberg, D. (2017). Economic impact of hearing loss and reduction of noise-induced hearing loss in the United States. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 60, 182-189. https://doi.org/10.1044/2016_JSLHR-H-15-0365

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