Listen to your buds: Preventing hearing loss

by Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Listen to your buds: Preventing hearing loss
(U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton)

5/28/2013 – SOUTHWEST ASIA — After a long day of work, the last thing you might want to hear is your neighbor’s favorite screaming rock band, but when fellow Airmen use their earbuds on the highest volume setting, no one gets to enjoy the silence.

Music technology came a long way since Edison’s first phonograph — from loud, crackly records all the way to inner-ear buds. While these conveniences are a part of everyday life, they can also be detrimental to your health and possibly career ending.

“In the military, many people are exposed to dangerously loud noises on a regular basis due to our jobs, especially personnel that work on the flight line,” said Senior Airman Jamie Miller, a 379th Expeditionary Medical Group public health journeyman. “Exposing ourselves to excessively loud noise or loud noise for long periods of time will cause noise-induced hearing loss. Any type of loud noise can cause this hearing loss; even listening to music that’s too loud can cause permanent damage.”

Servicemembers understand how essential it is to wear their personal protective equipment while performing the mission in situations requiring extra hearing protection, but what most don’t realize, Miller said, is hearing loss can occur at any time.

“Listening to loud music on an iPod is just like being exposed to any other loud noise,” he said. “One thing that many do is turn the volume of their music up when they’re in a place that is loud itself, like the gym. The best thing for that is simply to police ourselves; it will be well worth it.”

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, hearing loss can come from a variety of factors, but the number one source for hearing loss in America is exposure to very loud noise. In a campaign ASHA initiated for May as part of “Better Hearing and Speech Month,” “Listen to your buds” focuses on educating people, helping them communicate and promoting treatment aimed at improving quality of life.

ASHA officials say listening to loud noise for long periods of time can damage the hair cells in the inner ear. Noise-induced hearing loss usually develops gradually and painlessly. A single exposure to an extremely loud sound such as an explosion can cause a sudden loss of hearing. This is called acoustic trauma.

In the Air Force, NIHL is an important matter and it’s the number one cause for disability. To help combat the damage done by dangerous amounts of noise, personnel at risk take annual audiograms as well as get fitted for earplugs to make sure the correct size is worn and worn correctly.

“Correctly wearing earplugs and earmuffs will greatly reduce the amount of noise to a reasonable level,” said Miller.

Preventing high environmental noise from getting in is preferable, but many servicemembers purposely play their music at dangerous volume levels, and are at significantly increased risk for injury.

“Hearing loss is permanent, so there is no recovery that can happen once the damage is done,” Miller continued. “Without hearing, there would be communication barriers between you and your coworkers, giving orders and being aware of your environment. At home it’s much more difficult to have a conversation with your loved ones or call your family far away.”

People with hearing loss may have:

– Difficulty speaking and understanding verbal communication
– Problems in academic achievement; feelings of isolation, exclusion, embarrassment, annoyance, confusion and helplessness
– A reluctance to participate in activities with others
– Significant problems following directions
– Numerous physiological changes, sleep difficulties, digestive problems, delayed emotional development, stress related disorders, behavioral problems, body fatigue and possible immunological effects

There is hope, however, and all these symptoms can be avoided.

“The positive is that NIHL is 100 percent preventable,” Miller said. “As long as everyone does their part, NIHL won’t be a reason for anyone to have to leave their workplace.”

Visit for more information on how to prevent hearing loss.

Published by Benjamin W. Stratton

I'm a photojournalist traveling the world sharing what I experience along the way.

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