Serving in the armed forces is an inherently risky job, and hearing loss is the most common health issue affecting American soldiers. After returning from one or more tours of duty, hearing loss and persistent tinnitus can make it difficult for veterans to find civilian jobs and lead healthy, comfortable lives. That’s why the Air Force is conducting a study aimed at finding new ways to prevent hearing loss before it becomes debilitating.
The study is a component of the Air Force’s Total Exposure Health (TEH) initiative. This initiative was designed to track and analyze a variety of environmental factors or “exposures” that can have an impact on both the personal and professional lives of soldiers. Examples of such exposures include vehicle emissions, UV rays and loud noises.
By studying the cumulative effects of these exposures, the Air Force Surgeon General hopes to develop new preventive treatments to protect soldiers from environmental hazards.
In the first phase of their study on hearing loss, the Air Force will provide participants with sensing equipment that monitors noise exposures throughout their day-to-day lives. While other studies have examined only workplace noise exposure, this study aims to gain a more comprehensive picture of all the sounds a person is exposed to throughout the day.
“I think a lot of us would be amazed if we actually knew what was too noisy,” said Col. Kirk Phillips, consultant to the Air Force surgeon general for bioenvironmental engineering. “Noise sources that are lower in value, once we’ve had some of those higher-level exposures, can be concerns.”
Although the low-level clatter of a coffee shop might be relatively benign under ordinary circumstances, it could have a cumulative negative effect on a person’s hearing when coupled with other louder exposures. Phillips and the other researchers are interested in finding strategies to mitigate the cumulative effects that these noise exposures can have on soldiers.
Once the study is complete, the Air Force will evaluate the participants’ responses and use that information to find new strategies for preventing hearing loss.
“We’re not just collecting noise information and saying you’re above or below … We’re using very advanced analytics to produce a course of action,” said Dr. Richard Hartman, chief health strategist for the TEH initiative. “This is the reason we chose noise as it’s one we’re all exposed to no matter what your age is, no matter what your profession is.”
In addition to finding new preventive treatments for hearing loss, the Air Force also hopes to educate members of the Armed Forces about the risks of noise exposure and their options for protecting their hearing. This way, soldiers can make better, more informed decisions about their hearing health in the future.
Here at ESP, we’ve been doing our part to prevent hearing loss for more than 20 years. Our dynamic hearing protectors are designed to shield your ears from harmful sounds, while allowing you to hear safe ambient noise clearly and reliably. You can learn more about how our custom hearing protection products work here, or give us a call today to speak with a representative.