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    NSMRL Hearing Conservation Program Recognized as 2024 Navy Top Science and Engineer Team

    NSMRL Hearing Conservation Program Recognized as 2024 Navy Top Science and Engineer Team

    Photo By Emily Swedlund | GROTON, Conn. (20 May 2024). Dr. Stephanie Karch, Dr. Jeremy Federman, and Mr. Derek...... read more read more



    Story by Emily Swedlund 

    Naval Medical Research Command

    GROTON, Conn. - Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory (NSMRL)’s Regional Hearing Conservation Program (RHCP) was selected as a 2024 Dr. Delores M. Etter Top Scientists and Engineers Team awardee on May 6.

    Following the example set by Etter, this award recognizes Navy scientists and engineers for their technical superiority, innovation, technical merit, operational impact, and applicability to Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development, and Acquisitions) priorities.

    Etter, a former faculty member of the U.S. Naval Academy’s Electrical Engineering department, served as the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Science and Technology and the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisitions. She is known for her lasting work with software engineering and computer languages.

    “The RHCP is an integral part of America’s Navy,” said Capt. Matthew Jamerson, commanding officer of NSMRL. “The team is squarely focused on the enhancing warfighter readiness, and sustaining the CNO's [Chief of Naval Operations] Warfighting priority of delivering decisive combat power.”

    The RHCP has been contributing to the Hearing Conservation field since it was founded, just over 12 years ago. In 2022, they won the Military Health System Research Symposium Award for Excellence, Research Accomplishment Team/Military, and most recently their work leading a tri-service effort to incorporate hearing protection device (HPD) fit-testing across the DoD contributed to modification of the Department of Defense Instruction (DODI) 6055.12, which governs the DoD’s Hearing Conservation program. (Swedlund, 2023).

    “One of the reasons for the success of our program,” said Dr. Jeremy Federman, founding member of the RCHP, “is that we’re a fully collaborative group. We work on everything together, from proposals to deliverables. We’re a tiny team that’s doing huge things!”

    RCHP was founded after the deputy director of Occupational Health and Safety at the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) heard Federman brief the Hearing Conservation and Noise Abatement Flag Level Steering board on his large-scale hearing conservation work. He pushed Federman to seek the funding and specialists necessary to create a Regional Hearing Conservation Program of Record at NSMRL.

    “I scoured in and outside NSMRL for people with a passion for preventing auditory injuries,” Federman said. “I found Mr. Derek Schwaller [research engineer] at NSMRL, who had been working for years in the underwater domain and was ready for a new challenge. Dr. Stephanie Karch [research audiologist] was working at USAARL [U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory] when we met, but she was brimming with enthusiasm for our blossoming program and joined shortly after the funding was approved.”

    The RHCP has often collaborated with other services, specifically working with the U.S. Marine Corps to validate their experiential HPD (eHPD) fit-training method, which teaches users how to properly fit their hearing protection. A recent study investigated how to incorporate eHPD fit training in the field at firing range sites where weapons training occurs, and preliminary analyses suggest this methodology was effective for even the loudest small arms training evolutions.

    “We did at least ten site visits at firing ranges with Marines who were training on different weapons, and who were incredible to work with.” said Karch. “It’s really rewarding to work with warfighters to enhance our efforts and to prevent those same warfighters from experiencing auditory injuries.”

    Because of their track record and experience, NSMRL’s RHCP was specifically asked to support BUMED and the Defense Health Agency’s Hearing Center of Excellence to determine the best way to implement the new HPD fit-testing requirement that resulted from the change to DODI 6055.12.

    Meanwhile, at NSMRL, Schwaller is preparing to lead a project on small arms impulse noise abatement. For this project, the team plans to build, characterize, and use a new laboratory-based impulse noise test system that does not require live explosives.

    “We’ve already built one system and documented impulse noises up to 185 dBP.” Schwaller said, “The current standard method only goes up to 170 dB, which isn’t sufficient for assessing the sound levels emitted in the DoD. Our focus is not only to possess the necessary hardware and methodology to measure these difficult values in a repeatable way, but to develop a laboratory standard for measuring up to and beyond 190 dBP.”

    The team’s recent accomplishments are perhaps more notable in light of the extensive renovation that the NSMRL Sound Suite has been undergoing over the past three years, leaving their state-of-the-art audiology test suite, which includes one of the DoD’s largest anechoic chambers, temporarily unavailable. But these renovations have not halted or even paused their work, as they quickly pivoted to focus on fleet-driven side projects and new ideas. As one such example, the team recently completed field data collections aboard a Navy ship to assess the viability of boothless audiometry in austere environments outside the sound booth or clinic.

    “When we’re handed lemons, such as an unexpected renovation delay, we simply alter our course to make lemonade.” Federman concludes. “We take a lesson from the Sailors and Marines who we support, and improvise, adapt and overcome!”

    NSMRL, part of Navy Medicine’s Research & Development enterprise, and based out of Groton, Connecticut, sustains the readiness and superiority of undersea warfighters through innovative health and performance research.

    Swedlund, E. (1 Dec 2023). NSMRL Celebrates Publication of Change 1 to Hearing Conservation DODI. DVIDS.


    Date Taken: 05.21.2024
    Date Posted: 05.21.2024 15:02
    Story ID: 471897

    Web Views: 360
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