Lifelong Brooklynite and NYPD Deputy Inspector Dan Carione turned an unfortunate circumstance into inspiration and successful advocacy for the hearing impaired.
Carione, once a Dyker Heights resident, lost most of the hearing in his right ear in 1996 due to gunfire while on duty with the 72nd Precinct.
“My partner and I discharged our firearms,” he said, recalling the incident. “She discharged her firearm a few inches away from my right ear. After that, I lived with the hearing loss for about eight years. After being promoted to deputy inspector, I was transferred shortly thereafter to another position in Queens that involved me working right off the Long Island City entrance to the Queensboro Bridge.”
Because his office was about 15 feet from the elevated line with trains coming and going every five minutes, the hearing issues became more pronounced. So in his 40s, Carione explored the option of acquiring a hearing aid.
“I did so and initially the department was very supportive,” he explained. “I got the hearing aid and it worked well.” However, when he wanted to go back on duty, he recalled, he was told, “I’m sorry but I’m being told I can’t put you back on duty and you’re going to have to retire.”
Carione, who is now 50, refused and for two years, waged a legal battle to stay on the job with the hearing aid.
“The NYPD was relying on information (about hearing aids) that was antiquated,” he explained. “After four years of litigation, the day we were set to start picking the jury, the NYPD and the City of New York elected to settle the case.”
In addition to coming to a settlement with Carione, the NYPD agreed to allow use of hearing aids and to test to determine whether the individual wearers had functional hearing.
“This was huge nationwide,” said Carione. “The fact that we’ve got something on the books now is groundbreaking. It’s placed into motion a door that’s now open for an entire segment of our society.”
After his victory, Carione decided to become an advocate. “I speak at different forums and I try to educate people on the importance of protecting your hearing,” he said. “I also advocate for employment rights for those that have been involved with hearing disability discrimination. I will be speaking to disabled children on how to overcome disabilities and not allow a disability to limit or define them.”
Although advocating wasn’t something he set out to do, Carione has embraced the challenge. “I was concerned about getting back to work as my wife was nine months pregnant and my daughter was four, and there was a terrible recession so it started out as my battle,” he said. “This is about a lot more than me. When they offered to settle the case and put me back to work, but they refused to change the policy, I said no and I elected to go to trial. I knew I could’ve lost.”
It was a gamble, but one that became important to Carione. “How do you learn of the pain of others, sit down and talk to them, and then turn your back on it?” he said.
Carione discussed military personnel as an example. “For the tens of thousands coming home from war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the number one combat-related injury is hearing loss,” he explained. “The number one transferable skill in giving a veteran a career is law enforcement. Given that negative stigmas surrounding hearing aids permeate so much of the policy out there, the fact that the NYPD changed their policy is huge.”
This May, Carione — who is currently special projects coordinator for Patrol Borough Brooklyn North — was presented with the Beltone Heroes Award for overcoming his hearing disability in remaining active with the NYPD and for his long history of advocacy for the hearing disabled.