The NHCA Narrative: Cassie Ford 

I first became interested in hearing as a field of study because I grew up with a father who had a complicated hearing loss.  He had noise-induced hearing loss in one ear from his years as a Naval aviator in the era when hearing protection was not widely recognized as a need.  In his other ear, he had a severe, medically-related hearing loss.  When he retired from the Navy to farm, he became a vocal advocate for “protecting your hearing” with his fellow farmers. 

One of my Dad’s friends from the Navy, Denny Morrill, had retired about the same time as my Dad and had gone to work for an early occupational hearing conservation company – Impact Health Services in Kansas City.  Kansas City was not far from the farming community my family retired to and my family would visit our “big city” friends, the Morrills.  So, in a way, I grew up around Impact.

My interest in hearing originally took me to clinical audiology.  My father had mentioned looking into a job at Impact when I finished my graduate studies, but I couldn’t fathom wanting to work in hearing conservation full time.  However, I gradually found that I was becoming tired of trying to sell people a product they didn’t want – hearing aids – to help with a problem they didn’t want to admit they had – hearing loss.  As luck would have it, when I started looking for other opportunities, there was an opening at US Healthworks in Kansas City which had formerly been Impact.  Initially, my resume got a little lost, but after a call to Denny, I got an interview and found that the idea of full-time hearing conservation sounded really appealing.  I started working for the company that eventually became Examinetics in November of 2000, and have never regretted that choice.

My original boss at Examinetics, Cindy Bloyer, brought me to my first NHCA conference the very next February (2001 in North Carolina) and I’ve attended almost every conference since.  At that first conference, I was immersed in information about and surrounded by people advocating for hearing conservation best practices.  Being new to hearing conservation, it was overwhelming but, also, incredibly exciting.  I met so many people who were happy to mentor a new occupational audiologist – from so many fields other than audiology. It was amazing.  For the audiology team at Examinetics, NHCA is one of our favorite events of the year.  It’s the way we get the majority of our CEUs and it’s a chance to keep up to date on what’s happening in the hearing conservation world outside of our own silo. 

Since starting my NHCA and hearing conservation journey, I’ve had the privilege to work with employers in a wide variety of industries.  As a result, I’ve learned things about how people work in the US that I never would have known otherwise.  In trying to help our customers, I think about some of the lessons Dad’s peer group taught me.  One of those is that hearing loss may run in families, but so does working in noisy environments without hearing protection.  So, I encourage people not to assume it’s “nature” but to “nurture” their hearing and maybe the outcome will be different for them than it was for their parents.