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ASHA Joins with Consumers Groups on Amicus Brief

Concern with U.S. Marshals Hearing Testing, Evaluation Rules

Rockville, MD - February 29, 2008 - The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) joined forces with AARP and hearing loss consumer groups, including the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) and National Association of the Deaf (NAD), in filing an Amici Curiae brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit pertaining to a case where a court security officer was fired from the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) when his hearing became an issue.

According to case documents, Wilbur Allmond, who uses a hearing aid, lost his job after he failed work-related hearing testing while he was denied the opportunity to wear his aid. The USMS found him to have "severe conversational hearing loss," case documents say.

ASHA is "concerned by the apparent capricious and arbitrary application of hearing testing and evaluation protocols in this case," the organization said for its part in the brief. "Allowing the lower court's decision to stand would create a harmful precedent for other federal agencies and contractors, endorse ill-conceived hearing standards, and discourage appropriate use of assistive hearing devices, such as hearing aids."

ASHA added that it is "troubled that this court is being asked to uphold a U.S. Marshals Service policy which admittedly was developed without expert audiological input or reliance on relevant clinical standards." ASHA also noted that "as is the case when assessing any disability, individual degrees of hearing impairment and their impact on specific job functions should be carefully considered. Employers should not base decisions on mere assumptions about the abilities of employees with hearing impairments."

"We are pleased to join with AARP, HLAA and NAD and to have the opportunity to lend our considerable professional expertise in hearing to this case," ASHA 2008 President Catherine Gottfred says. "We believe that we can contribute to having this matter resolved in a way that is fair and reflects sound professional opinion when it comes to hearing."

ASHA is the professional and scientific association representing 130,000 audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and speech-language and hearing scientists qualified to meet the needs of the estimated 49 million (or 1 in 6) adults and children in the United States with communications disorders. ASHA's mission is to empower and support audiologists, speech-language pathologists and speech, language, and hearing scientists by advocating for the needs of persons with communication and related disorders, advancing communication science, and promoting effective human communication.

Audiologists and speech-language pathologists are committed to ensuring that all people with hearing, speech, and language disorders receive appropriate services so that they can communicate effectively. Audiologists are experts in the evaluation and management of chronic disorders of the auditory or balance systems. They specialize in the study of normal and impaired hearing, prevention of hearing loss, and diagnosis and treatment of persons with hearing and balance disorders.

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