November 17, 2022
Global Head of Knowledge: Advocacy & Partnerships, OneSight EssilorLuxottica Foundation
Chief Compliance Officer & Executive Vice President of Corporate Relations, Starkey Hearing Technologies
Senior Vice President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
Supporting the needs of all employees, including those with disabilities, strengthens the business community. However, some “invisible” disabilities, such as hearing loss and visual impairment, are more common than one might think.
Left unaddressed, impaired vision and hearing cause more than just healthcare challenges; they can also negatively impact employees, employers, and their broader communities. At the 2022 Business Solves Corporate Citizenship Conference, business leaders discussed how they’re mitigating the impact of these hidden disabilities and what companies and individuals can do to help support this critical mission.
Partnering with Local and Global Organizations Improves Hearing Health Worldwide
Hearing aid manufacturer Starkey Hearing Technologies has set a goal of improving hearing health worldwide, regardless of people’s ability to pay.
“The very first set of hearing aids that [founder Bill] Austin manufactured over 50 years ago were designed and made for somebody who could not afford the help they need,” explained Michael Scholl, the company’s Chief Compliance Officer and Executive Vice President of Corporate Relations. “From that point on, we’ve always had a policy of [helping] anyone who needs hearing help.”
To this end, the Starkey Cares corporate social responsibility program partners with local and global organizations to eliminate barriers to hearing health access.
“It’s become a partnership,” said Scholl. “We benefit by ensuring that individuals with hearing loss have the best technology. Our local partners … benefit by ensuring folks in their local community have the help they need. And … above all else, individuals who have hearing loss get the help they need.”
Access to Vision Care Transforms Communities
While vision care may seem highly accessible in the United States, this isn’t the reality everywhere. As part of its mission, eyewear company EssilorLuxxotica partners with organizations and professionals to support the estimated 2.7 billion people who have uncorrected poor vision.
“Communities … need to be able to see,” said Kristan Gross, Global Head of Knowledge at OneSight EssilorLuxottica Foundation. “Children can’t learn if they cannot see. Workers can’t work if they cannot see. Drivers are terrible drivers if they cannot see — [there] is a 30% higher crash rate for people who have poor vision.”
“If you just took that 30% off the table by providing glasses to those people, you’ve changed the way those people can live and be productive in life,” she added.
Employers and Employees Have a Responsibility to Protect Vision and Hearing
Large companies aren’t the only ones that can champion ear and eye health. Individual businesses and employees can help advance this goal by prioritizing their vision and hearing.
“Get your hearing tested, help those inside your company [and] communities be able to hear better. If you can’t, it’s going to be hard to learn [and] you may not be as effective at work,” said moderator Marc DeCourcey, Senior Vice President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. “There’s a real economic effect as well as a societal effect on having these hidden disabilities.”
“If we have employers [that] are willing to invest in their employees’ families, I would take it a step further and say this should be a family benefit,” Gross noted. “If their kids can’t see, then their kids aren’t learning at the rate that they need to [and] they are not going to be the next level of productive workers.”
From the Series