VILSECK, Germany – Audiologist Capt. Lauren Benitez directly affects Soldier readiness as the Army Hearing Program Manager in Bavaria.
“I always knew I wanted to be involved in the medical field. After taking my first course in audiology, I was fascinated and knew it was the career field for me,” said Benitez.
Benitez was pursuing a doctoral degree in audiology when one of her close friends from graduate school decided to join the service and become an audiologist in the U.S. Navy.
“I didn’t seriously consider joining the military until after graduate school,” said Benitez. “I saw how different Audiology in the Army was from the civilian world and became intrigued.”
Benitez reached out to her friend who connected her with other military audiologists, and after learning more about what they do, she began the application process to direct commission.
According to Benitez, in the civilian world, many audiology positions focus on diagnosing and treating problems related to hearing loss. In the Army, hearing readiness and conservation also plays a very large role.
She says an Army audiologist’s main goal is to prevent Soldiers from becoming hearing impaired in the first place. This includes protecting Soldiers and civilian employees from hazardous noise exposure, conducting yearly exams, and providing health education.
“Noise-induced hearing loss is a significant impairment in the military and can affect combat performance,” said Benitez. “Soldiers are constantly exposed to high levels of noise which can lead to tinnitus and noise induced hearing loss, which are the first and second most prevalent service-connected disabilities.”
As the PHCE hearing program manager for Bavaria she supports more than 15,000 Soldiers and DA Civilians in Germany by running the hearing program, providing education, seeing patients and training hearing technicians in health care facilities to conduct annual hearing exams.
Benitez enjoys the fact that her career field gives her the ability to make a big difference in people’s lives.
“Hearing is an integral part of communication and prevention of hearing loss can make a big impact in a Soldier’s life,” said Benitez. “If hearing loss does occur, I enjoy helping give back the diminished sense of hearing to someone though hearing aids and other assistive technology. “
Studies have shown that those who have better hearing perform better overall in battle scenarios.
One of her fondest memories of her yearlong Army career so far was the support she provided for a Multi-Role Anti-Armor/Anti-Personnel Weapon System training event in Grafenwoehr, Germany, over a one-week period.
Benitez collaborated with the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center audiologist, Capt. Theresa Galan, to train and supervise medics to use the FitCheck equipment, which is required to determine the attenuation rate of hearing protection in the Soldiers’ ears.
“In this training it was especially important to teach Soldiers about the proper way to insert hearing protection because this weapon is the loudest shoulder-fired weapon system,” said Benitez. “Without the proper use of hearing protection, a Soldier’s hearing can be significantly damaged over the years or even instantaneously.”
Audiology and hearing conservation has a variety of benefits to Soldiers.
“When hearing and communication is maximized, it can lead to improved survivability, lethality, mission effectiveness and quality of life for the team as a whole,” said Benitez.
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