The U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center recognized National Disability Employment Awareness Month Oct. 30 with an Individuals with Disabilities program sponsoring free hearing tests and information about the Wounded Warrior Project.

Lynn Thaler, project management specialist, Installation Support and Programs Management Directorate, and chair of the Huntsville Center People with Disabilities Program, coordinated the event. Thaler said she had great participation from Huntsville Center employees for the free hearing assessments.

"The demand was much greater than I expected, and all the slots for hearing tests were filled in less than an hour on the first day that appointments were available," Thaler said." This is good."

Employees were given an opportunity to set up an appointment for the hearing screenings with Thaler in advance. The assessment took approximately 15 minutes for participants to complete. If either provider recognizes any hearing issues with Huntsville Center employees during testing, each will provide employees with a free follow-up visit in a controlled environment at the medical facilities for Beltone and Balance and Hearing Center. Beltone and Balance and Hearing Center provided the free hearing tests.

Zach Watson, board certified hearing instrument specialist and president, Beltone, Huntsville, Ala., stressed how important it is for individuals to keep hearing awareness. Not paying attention to subtle cues that point to hearing problems now may cause more problems later on.

"We want to get folks into the habit of participating in yearly health screening. This allows us to follow them over a period of time to see if their hearing status changes. We can address any problems and refer them to other medical professionals if needed," Watson said. This also gives individual's more choices when addressing their health concerns."

Michael Toth, licensed hearing instrument specialist, Balance and Hearing Center, Huntsville, Ala., agreed.

"There is no certain age when hearing loss occurs. Overexposure to loud noise from machinery and equipment and electronic devices can damage hearing over time. Using ear phones, headphones and Bluetooth devices may also contribute to hearing loss," Toth said. "Participating in this type screen is a great way to raise awareness about hearing issues. We want individuals to build on yearly hearings assessments. Once we have established a baseline during health screenings, it makes it easier for us to identify problems and track progress. We want individuals to build on yearly health and wellness screenings, especially hearing awareness assessments."

Thaler said her committee hopes to offer free hearing tests again in the future and will try to have it run for more than one day.

Angela Morton, chief, Huntsville Center Equal Employment Opportunity Office, said the disability awareness committee also received a great response from employees at the Wounded Warrior Project booth. Employees were able to stop by the booth set up in Huntsville Center's main lobby and pick up information.

"The information booth helped to raise awareness on WWP. WWP supports employers by helping them connect with qualified candidates, providing information and education about combat-related injuries (such as post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury), reasonable accommodations, facilitating a productive on-boarding process and developing a long lasting relationship throughout the life cycle of employment," Morton said. "Hiring a wounded warrior is a smart business move."