New technology gives hope to railroad workers with hearing loss - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

New technology gives hope to railroad workers with hearing loss


Anyone who has sat at a railroad crossing knows how loud trains can be, so it's easy to imagine the problems their noise can cause to anyone working around them for decades.

Dr. Hinrich Staecker at the University of Kansas Hospital is a foremost expert on hearing and how the brain reacts to audio.

"Sixty percent of the population at age 70 has significant hearing loss and most of that is noise-induced," he said.

The percentage grows even higher in railroad workers like Randy Doyle.

"I rode on trains as a conductor for about 25 years," Doyle said.

He has also lost some of his hearing over time.

"With a lot of background noise, it's very difficult to discern in a spoken conversation. If we had some background noise, I'd really have to focus on what you're saying. I can actually read lips now, kind of a survival thing," Doyle said.

That's why Doyle along with railroad union representatives are forming a partnership with the University of Kansas Hospital in hopes of getting their members educated on hearing loss prevention and even signed up for clinical trials that could sharpen their hearing.

"I had kind of reserved to the fact that I would never recover my hearing, so yeah it gives me a lot of hope and I'd like to see this develop," Doyle said.

The partnership could reach tens of thousands of railroad employees nationwide with more than 7,000 in the metro area.

The Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Union said it reached out to the major railroad companies for participation in the project, but they declined because it has little to do with profit.

However, KCTV5 reached out to CSX Corp. and Union Pacific. They said they didn't know that the union was participating in the program.

But Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. said in a statement:

BNSF's audiologist was invited to a seminar or informational session at the University of Kansas a year or more ago, but was unable to attend. BNSF is not aware of any request to become a partner in a Kansas audiology unit.

Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

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