By Col. Marjorie Grantham, Army Hearing Program Manager, U.S. Army Public Health CommandMay 1, 2013
While most of us are aware that hazardous noise damages hearing, how to protect ourselves in a way that allows us to live and work in a world of sometimes dangerous sounds is just not intuitive.
Whether your favorite noisy recreational activity involves shooting; hunting; musical concerts; working out to tunes on your personal listening system; jamming with your band; boating or fishing on your favorite local waterway; achieving the perfect garden; or heading out for NASCAR, sporting or Scouting events, there is a hearing protector that is right for you. Remember, too, that you can reduce your hazardous sound exposure by listening to music and other good sounds below the halfway point for the volume control, by limiting your listening time, and by giving your ears some quiet time to recover.
So, how do you know when you need hearing protection? If you are standing 3 feet away from someone, and have to raise your voice above the background sounds, or if you are facing someone and the noise is so loud that you cannot hear him from this distance, use your hearing protectors. Earplugs, earmuffs and communications and protection systems, such as Tactical Communications and Protective Systems (TCAPS), come in many different styles. If you are unsure whether your hearing protectors fit or are the right kind for the sounds you are in, check with your installation hearing program manager, your audiologist, your hearing technician or your unit hearing program officer. Even very young children can wear earplugs, as very small sizes are available. Remember that proper insertion, before you go into the noisy environment, is the key to your hearing preservation. For example, be sure foam earplugs are inserted at least three-fourths of their length into the ear canal.
It is no longer inevitable that you retire from the Army with hearing loss. Research demonstrates that if you wear your hearing protection properly and at the right time, you'll retire from Army service with your hearing intact. Best of all, you can enjoy your favorite sounds off duty, too.