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Jolene Mancini, occupational audiologist at Naval Health Clinic Quantico, speak to Cpl. Randell Alexander, left, and Sgt. Oscar Portillo during their post-deployment health assessment, Nov. 20. Both Marines are Marine Corps security guards.

Photo by Ida Irby

Hearing loss and prevention, new audiologist sounds off

25 Nov 2015 | Ida Irby Marine Corps Base Quantico

“There are a lot of significant side effects to having hearing loss.” It’s not only that you can’t hear, and “you have to say, what?” stated Jolene Mancini, occupational audiologist at Naval Health Clinic Quantico.

Aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, warfighters have the difficult task of communicating, while somehow protecting themselves from soundwave blasts from ammunition during training. For some Marines, their job and need for communication is a priority over protecting their hearing.

“I want to be able to recommend proper hearing protection to these Marines,” said Corey Bender, Naval Health Clinic Quantico industrial hygienist, who described non-liner passive earplugs or electronic tactical earmuffs as the best solutions for use in combat and training.

Quantico’s Impulse Noise Protection Program has created an industrial hygiene working group to coordinate with specialists such as Mancini and John O’Donnell, engineer at Marine Corps System Command, who will share information about noise protection, sound localization, and the latest technology for hearing protection.

The working group will meet Dec. 8 at the Range Management building to discuss noise exposure on the base and the dangers of improper hearing protection, which can eliminate communication or situational awareness. Engineers and industrial hygiene staff will discuss noise exposure reports that outline hazardous levels of impulse noise on base. The group is opening attendance to weapons trainer instructors, those who fire weapons at MCBQ ranges and personnel with responsibilities that include hearing conservation.

Mancini is the newest audiologist at the clinic. She began her career studying audiology at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. She also deployed to Iraq with the Maryland Air National Guard.

“I was always interested in medicine,” said the Buffalo, New York native, while describing her transition from an ammunition specialist to audiologist. “My background of working in noisy military jobs gives me so much perspective. I feel like I am well rounded, because I understand both sides of it.”

There are many advances in hearing protection, as hundreds of devices flood the market. Though new advances have some disadvantages for servicemembers, like blocking off communication while using fatal ammunitions. According to Mancini, this may be why servicemembers don’t wear hearing protection enough.

In the past 10 years, veterans have been the biggest consumers of hearing aids in America, and so “we offer the latest and greatest hearing-aid technology available in industry,” said Mancini. Hearing aids have come a long way. It is like wearing “little computers” in your ears.

Today, “there are so many different ways we can protect peoples’ hearing, which we didn’t have access to before. Digital filtering devices reduce noise, yet amplify quiet sounds.” This is important for clear communication, said Mancini.

Hearing loss is the number one disability claim throughout the military. The Department of Veteran Affairs is spending millions of dollars each year to support veterans with hearing loss. There is a great deal of research being done in hearing loss prevention and new ways to treat those suffering from hearing damage.

“We want to protect the warfighter, so that they can continue to train and fight without hearing loss,” said Bender.

— Writer:
Marine Corps Base Quantico