"Hearing is critical to a Soldier's job and mission success," said Capt. Marisa Ragonesi, MEDDAC audiologist and chief of the Army Hearing Program. "Hearing is 24/7, 360 degrees. It allows a Soldier to shoot, move, and communicate, which are the fundamental skills for a Soldier to obtain their mission readiness. "
With mission readiness being the critical objective, Ragonesi and her team conduct post-deployment hearing tests to assess each Soldier's hearing accurately.
"We need to test these Soldiers to gauge what hearing readiness classification they fall under and whether they are fit for duty," Ragonesi said.
Besides screening each Soldier primarily for mission readiness, Ragonesi and her team also take hearing damage and hearing loss seriously and advocate for the importance of these post-deployment tests for each Soldier.
"Hearing loss is one of those injuries where you don't know what you have until it's gone," Ragonesi said. "Once it's gone, then these Soldiers are dealing with the repercussions of not being able to understand their children, their wives, their Families. They're not able to enjoy what they have in the past."
For the Soldiers diagnosed with a significant hearing impediment, Ragonesi and her team provide an array of auditory technology, such as the Tactical Communication Protective System, that can assist, improve and balance a Soldier's hearing. Soldiers like Staff Sgt. Marcel Nalls with the 48th IBCT, who after many tours of duty began to notice a degradation in his hearing.
"Those who have been deployed multiple times, had multiple situations, a lot of years in the military hearing starts to decrease," Nalls said. "That system allowed us to hear a lot better, a lot further, a lot clearer, and also allowed us to communicate with each other even in low tones, and we could hear it crystal clear."
Capt. Daniel Adcock is another success story with the Army Hearing Program. Adcock, a Field Artillery officer, has a hearing disease known as tinnitus, which is an increased, continues high pitched ringing in his left ear. Adcock was a part of the pre-deployment TCAPS training and was fit with the system for his deployment by the audiologist team at Winn Army Community Hospital.
"It just gives you increased clarity," Adcock said. "We're constantly dealing with numbers and everything like that. So, it is incredibly important for us to have that clarity of speech; it just kind of amplifies everything it's almost like having bionic hearing."
The ability to provide these Soldiers with hearing technology, meaningful training and counseling geared towards hearing loss prevention can ultimately increase the optimal readiness for these Soldiers.
"We're looking to educate that Soldier to remind them of that importance of wearing hearing protection," Ragonesi said. "Protecting their hearing for when they need it most."
The Army Hearing program team continues daily to educate, advocate and implement hearing training that continues to build the Soldiers hearing readiness.