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I am an enlisted maintenance troop, a grunt. I work on or near aircraft on a daily basis. In my career, I have worked on the C-130 Hercules, A-10 Warthog, F-4 Phantom and Weasel model, and of course, the F-16 Lawn Dart, I mean Fighting Falcon.

Each of these aircraft has their very own distinctive sound, but most would simply say they were loud. As a grunt, I appreciate the ear splitting, air warping melodies heard on most airbases, and I find that nowadays I just can't sleep without some sort of propeller or fan noisily moving massive amounts of air around.

However, as I stated earlier, some folks just don't like the noise and rightly so. I emphasize loud. Most folks don't carry around devices to aid in the dissipation of extreme volume. As a grunt, I have been issued the latest and greatest of safety wear to include the just-in-time for summer, fashionably chic headset and foamy ensemble. They go with my Battle Dress Uniform just fine, but they always draw negative attention when I go shopping, so I've stopped wearing them whenever I doff my uniform.

Loud noise is a hazard. Exposure to high noise levels can cause hearing loss or impairment, in addition to physical and psychological stress. Specifically designed protection is required, depending on the type of noise encountered and the auditory condition of the employee. AFOSH Standard 48-19, Hazardous Noise Program (based on the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) Occupational Health Standard 29 CFR 1910.95, Occupational Noise Exposure) is the primary Air Force directive on hazardous noise exposure policies, responsibilities, and procedures (including hearing protective device information). According to AFOSHSTD 48-19, when any employee's exposure over an 8-hour time averages 85 decibels or more, the Air Force requires the use of Personal Protective Equipment to reduce noise levels below 85 decibels. Contact your local BioEnvironmental Engineering (BEE) Branch for information on the Air Force Hearing Protection Program.

The Air Force and OSHA safety experts consider relatively safe noise levels around 84 decibels, which is equivalent to an old Chevy honking its horn. A car horn is loud, but its sound is a whisper when compared to an F-16 with afterburners. We've all heard them--the sound of freedom, which I agree with, but the deafening volume and the dizzying vibration of that plane makes my spleen hurt. It can also damage the delicate ear drum, hence, the aforementioned headset and foamy ensemble required when working in and around them.

Ears are delicate, and it's not just aircraft noise we should worry about. Construction sites, which are common around here, use a multitude of devices which devastate our hearing. Loud music in bars, which I wouldn't know about personally (snicker), can easily render an ear helpless for a day or two. Even the portable music devices seen dangling from the waists of "fitness freaks," could cause damage by turning them up too loud.

Now that I think about it, maybe I should just ignore the snickering and wear my headset and foamy ensemble anyway. After all, I may look stupid to some, but in my opinion it's a lot better than having to say, "What?" for the rest of my life.

RELATED ARTICLE: Test Yourself to Recognize Hearing Loss

The following questions will help you determine if you need to have your hearing evaluated by a medical professional: this material is for general information only and is not intended for diagnostic or treatment purposes. A doctor or some other health care professional must be consulted for diagnostic information and advice regarding treatment.

Editor's Note: Reprinted Courtesy of the Office of Occupational Safety and Health, Department of Veterans Affairs

* Do you have a problem hearing over the telephone? [Yes] [No]

* Do you have trouble following the conversation when two or more people are talking at the same time? [Yes] [No]

* Do people complain that you turn the TV volume up too high? [Yes] [No]

* Do you have to strain to understand conversation? [Yes] [No]

* Do you have trouble hearing in a noisy background? [Yes] [No]

* Do you find yourself asking people to repeat themselves? [Yes] [No]

* Do many people you talk to seem to mumble (or not speak clearly)? [Yes] [No]

* Do you misunderstand what others are saying and respond inappropriately? [Yes] [No]

* Do you have trouble understanding the speech of women and children? [Yes] [No]

* Do people get annoyed because you misunderstand what they say? [Yes] [No]

If you have answered "yes" to three or more of these questions, it is suggested that you consult an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose, and throat specialist) or an audiologist for a hearing evaluation.

By TSgt Vanpeter S. Bland, Nellis AFB, Nev.
COPYRIGHT 2004 U.S. Department of the Air Force
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:hearing loss
Author:Bland, Vanpeter S.
Publication:Combat Edge
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2004
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