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The Consumer Handbook on Tinnitus

Hearing Health and the Law

Douglas A. Lewis, Ph.D., J.D.

Information and knowledge is a source of power. The goal of this chapter (and book) is to supply you with the basic knowledge and references in the hope of facilitating your ability to seek additional knowledge and information. Hopefully, this will become the basis and rationale for making learned hearing healthcare and other related decisions for yourself.

It is a scientifically proven fact in the biological sciences that deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) forms the essential building blocks of life. In a similar sense, the institution and implementation of various rules of law are essentially building blocks in the formation of a society. Rules of Law have become the linchpin that often determines how societies are operated and maintained. The mere recognition for the need to have definable laws are essential components in the formulation and establishment of formal bench marks whose adherence to or dismissal of, are used to measure the success or failure of our societies and their members in functioning and acting in an orderly manner.

The intent of this chapter is to aid readers in better understanding the basic foundations, levels, and parameters of law and what potential legal implications or impact hearing healthcare issues may play in the US and other countries. This information is general in nature and presented using a very “broad brush” approach in highlighting and developing interplay between hearing healthcare and the legal arenas. None of the concepts described should be construed as legal advice, but are merely explored with the intent to educate. . .

The law has become an everyday part of our lives. One only has to look at the focus various media outlets, businesses and representatives have placed upon issues and proceedings over the last several years. On a virtually daily basis, we’re inundated with a multitude of self-proclaimed experts willing to comment upon or directly or indirectly advise the public on the impact or intent of various laws that could or should influence our decision-making processes or actions. Because of the routine media hype various legal issues receive, it would be easy to believe that creating new laws or changing established legal precedents would be a very easy task (“just do it!”—right?).

Unfortunately, this belief is a gross oversimplification of an established process and foundation that in some cases has taken hundreds of years (e.g., United States) or even thousands of years (e.g., Europe, Asia) to become established. Most societies over time have created a very intricate process in the formation and implementation of their legal processes and often refer to or include specific document references over time that become the source or foundation for a society’s legal and regulatory oversight. . .

Our world is a noisy place and the types, levels, and intensity of those noises and sounds continue to increase with the expansion of our lives. We are continually exposed to adverse types and levels of noise from a variety of both unwanted and desired sources including industrial and occupational noise, agricultural endeavors, transportation including air, rail, and motor vehicle traffic, music and entertainment activities, social activities in the community (e.g., restaurants, nightclubs, discos), and our general environment. However, the frequency of use and exposure to a number of desired sources such as concerts, music, personalized systems including MP3 players, and cellular phones, continues to increase exponentially as do the numbers of individuals seeking access to these items and venues. A value system that’s often perpetuated within our society is that “bigger” or “more” is always better. This attitude is also implied within our acoustic environment and exposure to mean that “louder is better.” However, as you have by now learned from this book, medical and health science is showing just the opposite; louder and longer exposures to sound (even wanted or desired sound) can be very risky to one’s health and potentially to one’s pocketbook!