We are Safety Services: Say again, over...

By Dave Harris

Posted on Thursday, October 26, 2017

You talk to anyone about noise in the Combat Arms and they can readily offer sources within their chosen trade. If you live around Grn Petawawa you can empathise with the life of a Combat Engineer or Bombadier, for by all accounts they seem to have the loudest toys and lots of them!

Any soldier, regardless of branch can face the possibility of hearing loss over the long haul. One could say it’s the nature of the beast and shrug their shoulders but it doesn’t have to be dismissed as such. Fortunately, today’s soldiers are much more aware of the hazards associated with the tools of their trade in general, yet sometimes the less obvious noise hazards are overlooked or unrecognized?

An additional problem is that many of our off-duty or recreational activities can add to the noise levels that can damage our ears. Our civilian employees also face the challenge of protecting their hearing either from the same recreational activities or their own workplace environments.

A few facts on the issue;

• 22 million workers are exposed to hazardous noise each year.

• Noise above 80-90 decibels, on average, over an 8-hour workday is considered hazardous and can cause damage to your hearing.

• Normal conversations often fall within the 60-70 Db range… unless of course you are in the combat arms!

• In Canada, hearing loss is second only to arthritis as the most common complaint among adults.

• Only 10 per cent of hearing losses can be helped by surgery or other medical treatment.

• Aging can also contribute to hearing loss to one degree or another.

Simply put, without proper protection you put yourself at risk for hearing loss. So, what do you do? Get your hearing checked is a good starting point. It doesn’t cost much and may be covered by your employer benefit package. If you are uncertain as to whether you really need to take a test, try this at home; turn on your TV and set it at a level where you can readily understand the conversations taking place on the screen. Do this from your favourite chair. Now leave the house but leave the TV on. Go outside and putter around, talk to your neighbour or even, dare I suggest, relax and read a few chapters? After about twenty minutes go back inside and if the TV seems unusually loud and your house isn’t haunted, you might want to make an appointment with an audiologist.

At work you should have a look at your issued hearing protection and if it looks in bad shape or the issued ear plugs are painful to wear then replace them. You might also want to consider getting a sound survey done in your workplace? The last time I checked (admittedly several years ago) the average cost of a hearing loss claim was something like 21K. That buys a lot of quality ear plugs or ear defenders even at today’s prices!

The bottom line is hearing loss is an insidious beast and like the song says, “…you don’t know what you got till it’s gone…”. Contact your C of C, your Supervisor, your UGSO, or Safety committee and let them know you have a concern. I can tell you first hand that continually asking people to, “say again” as part of your conversation isn’t nearly as much fun as it sounds…