February 28, 2019 / Scott Schneider

Safe-in-Sound Award: And the Winner Is…

Each year, NIOSH, the National Hearing Conservation Association (NHCA), and the Council for Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation (CAOHC) present an award to recognize those who demonstrate excellence or innovation in hearing loss prevention. The 2019 Safe-in-Sound Excellence in Hearing Loss Prevention Award for Innovation was awarded to Kurt Yankasas of the Office of Naval Research for the accomplishments of his Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Research Program.

Kurt’s program funds a wide portfolio of research on noise control for ships, aircraft, and equipment; NIHL surveillance and risk evaluation; medical treatment of NIHL; and improved hearing protection for Navy personnel (approximately one in four sailors suffer from NIHL). Work funded by the research portfolio has led to the development of innovative solutions to difficult problems like ship noise control. In addition, Kurt’s focus on the costs of both NIHL and tinnitus to the Navy led to a unique program focus on preventing “auditory injury.” Other examples of the program’s technological innovations include a smartphone app that provides information about hearing protection and a computer program for designing ships that have noise control features. Presentation slides about the NIHL Research Program are available on the Safe-in-Sound website.

Past winners of Safe-in-Sound Awards include Deputy Sheriff Ryan Lee Scott of Florida, who developed an educational workshop specifically for the law enforcement community called “Firearms Training and Hearing Loss,” and the U.S. Army’s Tactical Communications and Protective System Program, which provided soldiers with advanced, active hearing protection that simultaneously protects soldiers’ hearing while enabling them to remain situationally aware.

Call for Nominations

Are you or someone you know passionate about preserving workers’ hearing? If you are making extra efforts to prevent hearing loss, you might be eligible for the Safe-in-Sound Award. Established by NIOSH in 2008—and now co-sponsored by NHCA and CAOHC—this annual award recognizes companies and individuals who have demonstrated excellence in hearing loss prevention. Two awards are given: one for excellence and one for innovation.

Judges evaluate candidates for the excellence award based on what they have done to control noise levels in the workplace. For example, have they considered noise levels in purchasing equipment or tools (perhaps as part of a Buy Quiet program)? Do they regularly check noise levels in the workplace? Where needed, do they provide effective hearing protection that is individually tailored to the workers’ needs? Do they provide annual hearing tests for workers? Have they trained all workers effectively on noise both on and off the job? Safe-in-Sound judges also consider whether award nominees are controlling exposures to the minimum requirements (that is, OSHA standards) or to more protective levels, such as those recommended by NIOSH. Are they evaluating their program and improving it each year where deficiencies are found? Nominees for the excellence award should employ a comprehensive approach to hearing loss prevention that goes above and beyond.

For the innovation award, Safe-in-Sound judges look for important contributions that will have a significant impact on hearing loss prevention. Such advances can include policy development, program development and implementation, advocacy and outreach efforts, and unique product applications and their effectiveness. NIOSH, NHCA, and CAOHC are accepting nominations for the next round of Safe-in-Sound Awards. You can nominate others by June 7, 2019, or you can nominate yourself by July 15, 2019. Information on how to apply for the Safe-in-Sound Award is available online. An additional document (PDF) provides useful tips on how to submit a strong application.

Join the small group of award winners who have achieved new heights in hearing loss prevention. More information about the awards is available on the Safe-in-Sound website​.

Scott Schneider

Scott Schneider, CIH, FAIHA, recently retired as director of Occupational Safety and Health for the Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America.


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