Employers and Employees Not In Tune About Noise Levels at Work

Employees May Be Hesitant to Flag Concerns Due to Hearing Loss Stigma

PR Newswire

POMONA, Calif., June 19, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Employers and employees are not in tune on their perceptions of workplace noise, according to new research sponsored by EPIC Hearing Healthcare (EPIC).[i] The national survey of 1,500 full-time employed Americans and nearly 500 benefits professionals showed drastic differences in employee and employer perceptions of whether their workplace is "noisy." 

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Employees who describe their workplace as noisy are more likely to report diagnosed and suspected hearing loss, suggesting that noise on the job plays...

According to the survey, when employees are asked how many hours a day they believe their workplace is noisy (loud enough you would have to raise your voice to be heard), more than half (55 percent) say it is noisy for more than one hour a day, and more than one-third (36 percent) say it is noisy for more than three hours a day. In contrast, nearly 80 percent of employers say their place of employment is hardly ever noisy. (See Table 1.)

"This suggests 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," said Brad Volkmer, president and CEO of EPIC Hearing Healthcare.

According to Volkmer, when asked about the impact of noise at work on their hearing, nearly half of employees feel that it could be damaging their hearing and more than half say it is a relief to get a break from the noise of their workplace.

Employees who described their workplace as noisy were also more likely to report diagnosed and suspected hearing loss, supporting the assumption that noise on the job plays a role in hearing damage. (See Table 2.)

Barriers to Treatment
Despite expressing concern over noise levels at work, less than one in four employees have had their hearing checked in the past two years, according to EPIC's survey.

"Some employees, especially older ones, still view hearing loss negatively and resist treatment, such as wearing hearing aids, as a sign of aging," said Volkmer. "Other consistent barriers to treatment include concern over employer perception and the surprisingly high costs of hearing aids."

According to Volkmer, 44 percent of employees surveyed say they would be concerned if their employer knew or suspected they had hearing loss.

Many employers are open to taking steps to provide financial support for employees seeking hearing loss treatment, which can double as an "endorsement" of seeking treatment for hearing loss, encouraging this behavior among employees. In fact, "to demonstrate my support of employees seeking treatment for hearing loss" was the top response when employers were asked why they would offer hearing insurance to employees. (See Table 3.) 

Still, twice as many employees want hearing insurance as are offered it, demonstrating a win-win opportunity for employers to expand their benefits offerings while addressing an unmet employee health need.

Table 1: How many hours a day do you believe your workplace is noisy (loud enough you would have to raise your voice to be heard)?




Hardly ever



1 to 2 hours



3 to 4 hours



5 to 6 hours



7 to 8 hours



More than 8 hours




Table 2: Would you describe your workday as noisy? ('Yes' responses reflected below.)



Employees with a diagnosed hearing problem


Employees with a suspected hearing problem


Employees overall



Table 3: (Asked of employers) For which of the following reasons would you offer hearing insurance to your employees? (Select all that apply.)



To demonstrate my support of employees seeking treatment for hearing loss


To help my employees get discounts on hearing aids


To make sure my employees get their hearing checked regularly


To differentiate my benefit offering


Not sure; I don't know very much about hearing insurance


2013 Listen Hear! Employee Survey

Founded in 1997, EPIC Hearing Healthcare is the first in the country to provide access to hearing care as an ancillary or specialty benefit. With its extensive network of audiologists and hearing healthcare physicians, and distribution relationships with major hearing aid technology manufacturers, EPIC Hearing Healthcare is now the national leader in hearing healthcare, and the only organization to offer hearing as a fully insured indemnity plan. More information is available at EPICHearing.com.  

[i] Online employee survey conducted by Wakefield Research on behalf of EPIC Hearing Healthcare between November 22 and December 13, 2013, among 1,500 nationally representative full-time employed Americans 18+, including oversamples of sub-audiences of up to 101 Hispanics, 110 African-Americans, 100 Asian-Americans, 169 teachers and 100 law enforcement professionals (all employed full-time).

Online employer survey conducted by Source Media on behalf of EPIC Hearing Healthcare December 2013 among 493 benefits professionals.

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