“...after a lifetime in silence and darkness that to be deaf is a greater affliction than to be blind...I have imagination, the power of association, the sense of touch, smell, and taste, and I never feel blind, but how can I replace the loss of hearing?” – Helen Keller
To work for the U.S. Army is to work for one of the noisiest organizations in the country. There is industrial noise from motor pools, maintenance and engineering operations and military-unique noises, such as weapons fire and tank and aircraft movement. There are also those noises that are self-inflicted upon an individual who may not be aware that he or she is causing hearing loss.
Protect yourself from the threat. Hearing conservation programs are designed to prevent noise-induced hearing loss. You can prevent hearing loss from exposure to noise by learning more about the Army’s Hearing Conservation Program.
Noise-induced hearing loss is the most common form of hearing loss found in the Army. It can be temporary or permanent. Temporary hearing loss results from short-term exposures to noise, with normal hearing returning after some period of rest. Generally, prolonged exposure to high noise levels over a period of time gradually causes permanent damage, but loud enough noise can cause permanent damage after just one exposure.
With that in mind, the Army’s Hearing Conservation Program was designed to focus on what can be done to prevent hearing loss.
The AHCP does many different things. These include the following:
* protecting workers with significant occupational noise exposures from hearing impairment even if they are subject to such noise exposures over their entire working lifetimes;
* identifying noise hazards;
* helping to emplace / identify the need for engineering controls;
* giving out hearing protection devices;
* performing audiometry on noise-exposed personnel (all Soldiers);
* teaching hearing health education classes;
* ensuring the enforcement of the conservation program; and,
* evaluating current programs.
Some aspects of the AHCP can and should be performed by every person exposed to noise, especially those who are exposed on a regular basis. Noise hazard identification and wearing hearing protection devices are the two most important to be performed regularly.
Wearing hearing protection as often as possible during hazardous noise exposure can reduce a great number of hearing impairments and stop it from getting worse.
Education is also important. If you can't identify hazards or don't know how to respond, get some more information about the topic from someone who knows. In other words, talk to a hearing conservation educator.
Because of a lack of information, an unfortunate growing number of the population has self-induced hearing loss. This is caused by unknowingly doing everyday activities that are hazardous to hearing.
Listening to iPods with the volume maxed out is rapidly becoming one of the biggest causes of noise-induced hearing loss. As a good rule of thumb for prevention, turning the volume above 70 percent of the maximum is not recommended, as it could cause permanent hearing loss within one hour. Try to keep the volume at or around the 30- to 50-percent mark for less opportunity for causing hearing loss.
Wearing a good pair of earplugs is a great prevention method. Fort Drum currently gives out free hearing protection to all Soldiers to provide the necessary protection and comply with the Army Hearing program. It is well understood that there will be times, especially during combat, when earplugs are not able to be worn. That type of hearing loss is sometimes unavoidable. However, it is the responsibility of both individuals and the Army as a whole to recognize that hearing protection should be worn the rest of the time around excessively loud noises, such as at ranges.
Another prevention method is to receive an annual hearing test to keep an eye on your current hearing and to make sure that you are not losing your hearing due to preventable factors.
Once an individual has hearing loss, then another part of the Army Hearing Conservation Program comes into effect. This involves effective hearing management through Audiology and potentially hearing aids.
Unfortunately, hearing that is gone is gone for good. Hearing will never come back. Individuals with hearing loss usually benefit from amplification of some kind, usually hearing aids.
If you are constantly told by your family that the television is too loud, you keep asking others to repeat what they said, or you are told that you talk too loudly, it may be time to see Audiology and have your hearing tested. Those are all usual signs that there is some type of hearing loss present. Even when you only have some hearing loss, hearing conservation is important. Individuals with partial hearing loss are usually even more susceptible than others to further noise exposure.
All in all, fully using the Army Hearing Conservation Program is the best way to prevent, receive education, and treat hearing loss. Make sure that Soldiers without hearing protection acquire it immediately and receive education on the causes of hearing loss, even those of everyday life.
If you would like hearing protection, visit Clark Hall Audiology between 7:30 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call Audiology at 772-3622.