LANDSTUHL, Germany – The World Health Organization has designated March 3 as World Hearing Day. The WHO estimates 466 million people have disabling hearing loss. By 2050, that figure will almost double, affecting one in 10 people.
While the Army trains in order to maintain Soldier readiness, protecting those Soldiers’ hearing remains a key safety component.
“Hearing loss prevention is the cornerstone of a hearing conservation program,” said Capt. Theresa Galan, the chief of the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center Hearing Conservation Clinic. “Our goal is always to educate and equip our service members to protect their hearing when in hazardous noise in order to prevent hearing loss. Good hearing enhances the survivability and the lethality of our joint warfighters and improves their quality of life.”
For example, Soldiers and Marines that use the Multi-purpose Anti-armor Anti-personnel Weapon System could potentially be exposed to incredibly high noise levels if adequate hearing protection isn’t used.
“The MAAWS is the loudest shoulder-fired weapon in the military’s arsenal with noise levels exceeding 188 decibels and personnel must wear double hearing protection with deeply fitting foam earplugs and earmuffs,” said Galan. “Our warfighters must train as they fight, so it is important to choose the right kind of hearing protection for the task.”
World Hearing Day is designed to raise awareness on how to prevent deafness and hearing loss and promote ear and hearing care across the world. The theme of World Hearing Day 2021 is Hearing care for ALL! Screen. Rehabilitate. Communicate.
For service members, noise-induced hearing loss from exposure to hazardous noise on and off-duty is the most common type of hearing injury. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing, buzzing and other sound in the ears) continue to be one of the most prevalent service-connected disabilities experienced by veterans of all services.
“Educating my patients on how loud is too loud and proper fitting of hearing protection is an important part of my daily job,” said Rosalyn Thibou, a hearing technician at Vicenza Army Health Clinic. “Hearing protection is not only for military noise, but also recreational noise. Turn the volume down. Soldiers should always wear hearing protection when in hazardous noise both on and off duty.”
Both Galan and Thibou mentioned the “three foot rule.” If you cannot hear someone talking to you from three feet away without shouting, then the noise is too loud. Walk away if possible, turn down the volume, or use hearing protection.
Every Soldier is enrolled in the Army’s hearing conservation program. Due to COVID-19, annual hearing exams are currently by appointment only at all Hearing Conservation Clinics in the LRMC footprint. The Landstuhl Hearing Conservation Clinic is currently the only location in Rheinland-Pfalz that appointments can be scheduled online at tricareonline.com. Appointments at other locations can be made by phone.
For questions regarding hearing protection, training or education, units can email the Regional Army Hearing Program Manager at email@example.com.