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Ban on Hearing-Aids Forcing Early Retirement of Seasoned Cops

Ban on Hearing-Aids Forcing Early Retirement of Seasoned Cops

New York Times via YellowBrix [Premium]

June 20, 2011

NEW YORK – The New York Police Department’s policy regarding a job candidate’s hearing ability is straightforward enough: Applicants who fail a basic hearing test will not be hired as officers.

But for police officers already on the job, the policy is not so clear-cut.

After years of informally allowing officers to wear hearing aids, and even paying for some, the department in late 2009 began enforcing a ban on the hearing devices, forcing older officers who had them to retire and instructing younger officers to stop wearing them at work.

Two of those forced to retire have filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, contending that the policy forbidding hearing aids is discriminatory toward those with hearing loss, according to the officers’ lawyer, Colleen M. Meenan.

The former officers, Daniel Carione, 44, and Jim Phillips, 40, also contend that the policy serves as a deterrent to officers who otherwise might report their hearing loss.

“This just forces the ones with hearing impairments to hide,” said Mr. Carione, a former deputy inspector who received a hearing aid in 2009 that was paid for by the department, only to be forced into retirement two years later.

“It sends a message to anyone who is suffering from hearing loss that if you come forward and make that known, we will end your career,” he said.

The two men say that because the department does not routinely test officers for hearing, the hearing-aid ban does little to weed out officers with hearing loss.

One officer, who normally wears a hearing aid but removes it while on duty, said he believed that his hearing deficiency left him less equipped to adequately serve.

“I do everything I can to reduce the odds of getting myself hurt, or someone else hurt,” said the officer, who insisted on anonymity because of his condition. He acknowledged that there were times when he could not properly hear communications on the police radio.

“I had to do a warrant check and I couldn’t hear the words,” he said. “I could hear the sound, but I couldn’t hear the words.”

Paul J. Browne, the department’s chief spokesman, said it was “not actively looking to see if people have hearing aids.”

“But presumably if someone came forward and said, ‘I need a hearing aid,’ and it indicates that your hearing is diminished, then that could lead to a disability retirement,” he added.

The department has not publicized its ban on hearing aids for active officers.

In three cases, the Police Department has told officers to stop wearing their hearing aids even though it had previously authorized their use, Ms. Meenan said.

Mr. Browne said those three cases involved “officers who were under the impression they needed hearing aids, but did not.”

Mr. Browne said hearing aids were incompatible with police work because they were vulnerable to “mechanical failure, earwax buildup or any number of things,” and could not completely compensate for hearing deficiencies that might render an officer unable to hear a command properly.

In challenging the department’s policy, Mr. Carione and Mr. Phillips also raise questions about the extent of job-related hearing loss among police officers, who hear some of the loudest noises the city has to offer, in higher doses than ordinary citizens experience.

Over the years, many police officers who had spent their careers working in the subways complained of hearing loss, said Robert Valentino, a former spokesman for the transit police, which was a separate police force until 1995.

“You work in the subway over time, no matter what, you’ll have hearing loss,” said Mr. Valentino, who said his own hearing declined noticeably between 1968 and 1980, the period when he worked underground. “The noise is just incredible.”

A study about noise in the city’s mass transit system that was published in The American Journal of Public Health in 2009 found that “exposures of a few hours to as little as 2 minutes a day” to the noise levels on some subway platforms “would be expected to cause hearing loss for some people given chronic exposure.”

Mr. Carione’s hearing loss dates to July 4, 1996, he said, when he shot and killed a drunken man who was menacing him with a knife. Another officer fired five shots less than two feet from Mr. Carione’s ear.

Mr. Carione pointed out that in 2004, despite his impairment, he could hear well enough to dive off Canarsie Pier while fishing one night and save a drowning autistic man.

“I heard enough to hear that splash, didn’t I?” Mr. Carione said in a recent interview.

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  • Christmas_2008_top_half_max50

    BallisticsGirl

    over 2 years ago

    42 Comments

    I just read articles that showed the IRS did this to at least ONE of their agents and so did the US Marshalls!

  • Fallenherobadge-3-1_max50_max50

    aussie4

    almost 3 years ago

    5328 Comments

    What? Say again? Oh, I am now understanding your idiocy.

  • Fallenherobadge-3-1_max50_max50

    CAZ

    almost 3 years ago

    1428 Comments

    There will always be someone somewhere to stir the pot so others can get screwed. Sounds like Politicans are at it again.

  • Img00040-20110204-1641_max50

    LittleDogmaOne

    almost 3 years ago

    64 Comments

    I don't like this one bit. I am deaf, and university police officer at Gallaudet University. I am strongly believe that anyone, with hearing loss, CAN do the job regardless if he or she can't hear, but he or she can SEE and other officers will be his or her "ears", he or she will be their "eyes" Their department need to find another way, for example, provide him or her a department pager in order to communicate with dispatchers, officers, and watch commander/supervisors. Team work is essential, they will be fine.

    Or transferring him or her to K-9 unit, K-9 will be her or his "ears" et cetera. Be creative.

    They need to "open" their mind, and find another way to providing an accommodation for their seasoned officers with hearing loss or new officer with a hearing loss/deaf.

    In my opinion, we can't afford to losing all seasoned officers because of their hearing loss.

  • Image_max50

    LCSO_165

    almost 3 years ago

    338 Comments

    This is the biggest crock of (you know what) that I've ever heard! Why is wearing a hearing aid justification to get rid of officers? What's next NYPD - officers who wear glasses???? Why don't you focus on the REAL problems within your agency instead of ending the careers of decent officers who want to do their jobs.

  • Logo_20bus_20card_max50

    GaryB1956

    almost 3 years ago

    66 Comments

    There goes the experience - why retire an experienced officer when they could be placed in a different role and still contribute. Sounds like to me some nitwit in the risk analysis department decided an officer with a hearing loss was a high risk and easy to discard. Well common sense no longer applies in any aspect of life I guess!

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    almost 3 years ago

    I thought that a Department would do more for they LEO's then force them to retire if then loss there hearing form a job related issue. It doesn't seem that anyone is safe there with a hearing loss. Wonder if that holds true for the cheifs and commissioner also.

  • Az_phx_motorcade1a_max50

    Bury

    almost 3 years ago

    1340 Comments

    I've always wanted to work for NYPD, but my hearing loss is from riding a police motorcycle. They should support those officers, not kick them out.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Glock10mmForMe

    almost 3 years ago

    66 Comments

    I am near-sighted but always qualified expert on the range. Heck, I got the top shot award when I was in Corrections during basic training for that job. My hearing is good enough that I can hear movements and noises like an argument or fight in progress going on inside a residence, but I have occasional trouble distinguishing words in a noisy environment. Part of my loss is due to not having believed in or worn hearing protection until I was in my thirties. Since my teens, I had always worried that I might freak out in a shootout (especially indoors) if exposed to the loudness of gunfire without being used to it. This was before I had experienced the reality of auditory exclusion when you fire a gun in a time of great fear or stress. I got good evaluations prior to retiring and was noted for being observant and made some good arrests of auto breakers and others who were about to commit serious crimes. Sometimes, that sixth sense (we all have) is a great little guide in finding people about to commit a crime or who have just committed one.

    I hope NYPD gets its butt scorched over this wrongful decision.

  • 1979_max50

    Robocop33

    almost 3 years ago

    14600 Comments

    My how times have changed. I am not THAT old but I do remember when i was in the military I was told that I could not be a forward gunner on a PBR because I wore glasses and I had an upper plate, both of which I might lose in battle. When I applied for the Police Department I was restricted as to where I could go because my vision was either not 20/20 or no worse than 20/40 without glasses or I was under 6' tall or I was outside of my height/weight ration or simply because I did not live inside the city limits. You had to meet certain requirements and physical abilities and there were no exceptions, period. The simply fact that I wore glasses kept me from even applying to many departments and the fact that my vision was less than 20/40 without glasses even more departments were excluded and even some states! Florida was one of them back in the 70's as one Dept. really wanted me but could not obtain a waiver for the State vision standard! Yes some things needed to change but lets also be reasonable as to the extent of your disabilities and how them may effect your ability to perform your duties without certain senses and/or body parts.

  • Fallen_20heroes_max50

    P820

    almost 3 years ago

    366 Comments

    Total BS!!! I am a 16yr veteran of my department and I AM HEARING IMPAIRED! I wear Aids in both ears and it has never effected my job performance. The officers on my department are not worried about my hearing ability and would stand up my side anytime anywhere. It actually helps cause my ability to reads lips has caught several people trying to tell others what to say. My hearing aids have noise suppression built in so if I was involved in a shooting they would shut off and turn right back on with no ringing and my hearing is still there unlike others that have to rely on adrenalin to push them past the ringing.
    It goes back to if you don't wear them and don't understand the actual handicap then don't judge the person.

  • Img_20111016_163737_max50

    DDemlong

    almost 3 years ago

    2238 Comments

    I could MAYBE see new hires may not being allowed but seriously, people that are already on the force should NEVER had been terminated because of a hearing aid.

  • Ericm60_max50

    cakdep1

    almost 3 years ago

    2928 Comments

    It sounds as if the Americans with disabilities act should have some impact on this !
    I have only seen a few departments with hearing standards.

  • Anonymous-killer-whale-232189_1__max50

    Whalewatcher

    almost 3 years ago

    10908 Comments

    Combine hearing loss with auditory exclusion ( which can happen in very stressful situations, especially shoot-outs ), and it can be a recipe for disaster. I'd hate to not hear someone yelling a warning to me, or vice-versa. The flip side of this coin is to place officers in jobs where the hearing loss isn't a liability or danger to others; I would hate to lose the ability to use the veteran officers' experiences in other areas, such as training, etc.

  • White_shirt_max50

    uncledennis1

    almost 3 years ago

    23110 Comments

    I hope the EEOC does their job.

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