I Am Ear-Sensitive!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about sensitive ears:

I sympathize with “thrown to the wolves” under your column of noise in the workplace. I, too, have the same exact problem. Your answer to her did not carry it all the way out. In my case I have people playing radios all around me. I asked to be moved and all I got for my efforts was being told: I need to get my ears check to see if an accommodation can be made (as if I’m the one with a disability), also told that the people will be told to confine the noise to their desk and also that the supervisors will make the decision on whether I still hear the radios – if they don’t then oh-well!

I have extremely sensitive senses – I hear the smallest sound, I smell what others don’t, I taste food better than others recognizing spoiled or not. I resent being considered disabled and since word has spread about my complaint I now don’t have these people talking to me. Plus I got told I will not be moved. Do you have a valid suggestion – should I try to start something with OSHA?


DearĀ Ears Hurt:

I agree with you about loud noise bothering the ears. I complain about the loudness of those who shout out commands at our Fitness Center. Unfortunately, the only solution that I know OSHA will insist on is that earmuffs be used when the decibel level is jet engine high. Does your work require that you not wear protective gear? Can you muffle the noise somewhat by wearing earplugs? Why not take up the challenge of being disabled? Check with HR to learn if hearing tests and medical opinions can be obtained? If you can be so labeled, your supervisor might be forced to be more accommodating. It is just a wild idea.

The responsibility is now on your supervisor’s shoulders–ear high. You can record the noise that bleeds into your work station. Log date and time. With this record, you might have proof enough to show when and if the noise is not confined to one’s desk. And you can be a thorn in your supervisor’s ear, the squeaking wheel is the one that gets greased. These probably are not what you consider valid suggestions; however, they may prompt you to more creative solutions, such as raising yellow flags when noise gets loud and a red one when it is extremely loud.I am attaching one more idea.

Please feel free to send a report on how you cope or are unable to do so. And be friendly. Don’t allow this to be an obsession that causes you to believe no one will speak with you because you have complained about the noise of the radios. If you are friendly, I can’t think that co-workers are that mean. Each of us must speak up for ourselves, but harmony comes from empathizing with others and listening to their voices–and sometimes asking them kindly to speak more softly. So here’s to our ears. Think WEGO. Bill Gorden

The Workplace Doctors Feedback: I appreciate the fast response. I love your suggestion about recording the radios and I will try this. Regarding the hearing test I was told to have done – I did. I did not appreciate the fact that they required this information yet it cost me $25 co-pay and docked to hours of vacation time but I guess I can’t fight that either. The tests showed I have 10 db in one ear and 14 db in the other ear. That I have Hyperacosis (I don’t know if that is a “real” problem or a diagnosis of a complaint by me.) But they verbally said I had sensitive hearing but then the doctor only wrote to my work “I recommend she avoid high level ambient noise”. Well this doesn’t help me at all as I hear the “low” level sounds. Turned downed radios sound like a million rats chattering away. Much like dripping water can drive a person nuts – this noise within 5 minutes gives me a severe pain in my left temple area – perhaps tension but it’s pain I can’t get rid of unless the music goes away.

I tried earplugs and my right ear bone ends up in severe pain. I tried headphones and they don’t block out the radios at all – unless I add my own music to the headphones then I have to turn up my music and then it’s too loud in my own earphones and I get a headache. One girl across from me wears earphones and I can hear the stuff bleeding out from her earphones. Sounds even worse than rats.

Regarding you can’t imagine people being that mean as to not talk to me – well believe it. These girls are upset at having to turn down their radios and they hold it against me. You’re a guy and guess you can’t imagine how vindictive girls can be. I really don’t care if they talk to me or not as I’m there to do the job I’m paid for. But the people are making it a living hell no matter how nice I try to be.Maybe due to my age – they are hoping if they make it rough enough then I’ll quit. I’ve been with this company for 10 years and have an excellent work record so I think they would have a really hard time firing me. But you never know. I guess there is no hope out there for me anywhere. I would like to know though since when does playing radios take priority over good old-fashioned quiet hard working people?

You don’t need to respond to this e-mail – I just wanted to let you know some things. I’ll keep you posted. One more thing this all started because I had asked a girl very, very nicely if she would mind wearing ear phones as I could hear her radio and she asked me if I would ask the supervisor to move me – I did so and I was the one who got jumped. So much for me trying to be nice and accommodate her request. I still haven’t told the bosses that it was her idea.

William Gorden