July 7, 2011 in Advocacy & Access
|1. NY City Forces Retirement of Police Officers Wearing Hearing Aids
From the blog of Lise Hamlin, Director of Public Policy at Hearing Loss Association of America
In an article published June 19, 2011, (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/20/nyregion/ny-enforces-ban-on-police-officers-using-hearing-aids.html) the New York Times reported the New York City police department has banned the use of hearing aids on the job. Two officers who were forced to retire because they did wear hearing aids on the job have filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), saying that the policy is discriminatory toward people with hearing loss.
It appears that the NYC police department has a kind of “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward hearing aid wearers. According to the New York Times, Paul J. Browne, the department’s chief spokesman, said it was “not actively looking to see if people have hearing aids.” He does admit that the department has told officers to stop wearing the hearing aids once found. According to Dan Carione, one of the two officers who were forced to retire, the department is sending a message that if you step forward and make your use of hearing aids known, “it will end your career.”
Mr. Carione and his attorneys contacted HLAA soon after he learned the department’s policy last fall. HLAA has offered continuing support and information about hearing loss and employment issues as he works toward reinstatement.
2. Response to the NY Times article by HLAA Executive Director Brenda Battat , published June 28, 2011
To the Editor:
Re “Ban on Hearing Aids is Forcing Out Veteran New York City Police Officers” (news article, June 19):
Hearing Loss is a health issue that has long been misunderstood and stigmatized in our society. Banning the use of hearing aids that help police officers to function at their best is inconceivable and perpetuates the myths and stereotypes that are still prevalent about hearing loss today.
More important, it puts both the police officer and the public at risk when those who have admitted their hearing loss, sought treatment for it, and can function well with a hearing aid are forced to hide their hearing loss for fear of losing their jobs.
For more than twenty years the Americans with Disabilities Act has provided equal opportunity in the workplace. Banning young police officers from using the excellent hearing aids available today and forcing older police officers with hearing aids to retire is discriminating. As long as they can pass the hearing test with their hearing aids in they should be allowed to use them on the job.
Bethesda, MD, June 21, 2011
The writer is the executive director of Hearing Loss Association of America, a national membership organization of and for people with hearing loss.