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    Hear-ye, Hear-ye! Navy audiologists make a difference

    Audiologist Performs Test

    Photo By Petty Officer 2nd Class Luke Cunningham | 191106-N-LW757-1002 SAN DIEGO (Nov. 6, 2019) Dr. Joanna Pearson (right), an...... read more read more



    Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Travis Decker 

    Naval Medical Forces Atlantic

    Click. Eyes close to focus in on the sounds beeping from the uncomfortable red and blue headphones the person is wearing as silence permeates the small, cramped booth. With each ‘click,’ the cues grow fainter. Fingers grip the clicker, ears straining to hear the faintest ‘beep’ of the machine. Click. What feels like an eternity goes by with no perceived sound. Was that a real ‘beep’ or just the imagination, a phantasm created by the worry that one may be missed? Click. Minutes pass and eventually a voice comes across the headphones stating that the hearing test is completed.

    “Hearing is essential to quality of life,” began Cmdr. Amy McArthur, a native of Tucson, Arizona, and the regional hearing conservation program manager assigned to public health and safety at Naval Medical Forces Atlantic (NMFL). “What separates humans from other mammals is the intricate ways in which we communicate and losing hearing means losing that ability to communicate. There is no end to the pride I take in the knowledge that what I do as a Navy audiologist helps prevent that loss of hearing and communication.”

    With the general loud nature of the military lifestyle and workforce, many are at risk of hearing loss annually. Preventing hearing loss is important not only to quality of life to the service member, but to their families as well.

    “I remember a patient that had been deployed and was exposed to explosions and gunfire. When he returned from deployment, he had significant problems with balance and hearing, among other things. One of the biggest complaints he had was that he had difficulties hearing his little girl, which was the one that was affecting him the most,” explained Lt. Cmdr. Rob Summers, a native of Ririe, Idaho, and audiologist assigned to Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Center (NMRTC) Jacksonville. “Luckily, I was able to treat his hearing loss with hearing aids. He brought his daughter to the appointment where we put them in and programmed them. Once that was done, he could hear his daughter easier and clearer, which resulted in tears of gratitude. It was a very emotional moment for him and his family and one I remember with pride.”

    Sound is measured in A-weighted decibels (dBA). A-weighted decibels are what is used when human hearing is affected. Normal conversations tend to range from 60-70 dBA. Long or repeated exposure at or above 85 dBA can cause hearing loss. Wearing hearing protection consistently can be the difference in keeping hearing or losing it.

    “We recommend using the ‘Three Foot Rule,’” said McArthur. “Simply put, if you are trying to talk to someone standing an arms-length away, or about three feet, and you have to raise your voice to be heard, the environment or activity is too loud. You have two choices at that point – either move away from the noise source to some place quieter or use properly fitting hearing protection.”

    The promotion of hearing health starts at the top and leaders should model ways in which hearing loss can be prevented, such as ensuring proper wear of hearing safety gear and provide loss prevention training.

    “It’s a common misconception that hearing loss is an inevitable consequence of military service. Only the noise is inevitable; hearing loss is not,” advised McArthur. “Eventually, we all take off the cloth of the nation or retire our civil service uniforms. How much hearing each of us retains at the end of our careers is dependent upon the actions we take now both on and off duty.””

    October is National Audiology Awareness Month, which is dedicated to sharing information about conditions that affect the ability to hear and the experts who work on treating those conditions. In the Navy, audiology can be a rewarding career since audiologists offer hearing loss prevention and provide education, training and monitoring to ensure the auditory combat readiness of Navy and Marine personnel.

    “My first introduction to the world of audiology was a childhood friend that was deaf,” reminisced Summers. “Communication with him was always challenging. Later, while I was pursuing my college degree in Communication Disorders, my desire to help those with hearing problems was reignited and I determined to pursue audiology as a career. Healthy hearing equates to a better quality of life, which hopefully in some fashion I can be part of by making a difference in people’s lives by doing what I'm doing as a naval audiologist.”

    There are many steps on the road to becoming an audiologist, but the Navy offers two main routes. The first is direct accession, which is designated for fully licensed and practicing audiologists. Once selected, newly commissioned officers will attend Officer Development School (ODS) at Naval Station Newport in Rhode Island for a comprehensive introduction to the responsibilities as naval officers. The second path is through the Navy Health Services Collegiate Program (HSCP), which is a scholarship that allows students to complete their externship year at one of two naval medical enters before receiving commission as a naval officer and attending ODS.

    NMFL, headquartered in Portsmouth, Virginia, delivers operationally focused medical expertise and capabilities to meet Fleet, Marine and Joint Force requirements by providing equipment, sustainment and maintenance of medical forces during combat operations and public health crises. NMFL provides oversight for 21 NMRTCs, logistics, and public health and dental services throughout the U.S. East Coast, U.S. Gulf Coast, Cuba, Europe, and the Middle East.

    Navy Medicine – represented by more than 44,000 highly-trained military and civilian health care professionals – provides enduring expeditionary medical support to the warfighter on, below, and above the sea, and ashore.



    Date Taken: 10.24.2023
    Date Posted: 10.24.2023 16:19
    Story ID: 456450
    Location: PORTSMOUTH, VA, US
    Hometown: RIRIE, ID, US
    Hometown: TUCSON, AZ, US

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