Hearing Protection

Hearing Protection

UXBRIDGE, MA – Apr 9, 2017 IYAAP Blog – Prolonged exposure to jet engine noise can cause long-term hearing damage.  That’s why pilots wear hearing protection on the flight line.  Years after hanging up my flying gear for the last time, I still have trouble understanding what people say in a crowded room above an irksome din or after riding my lawn mower for a couple hours on a hot summer day.

“I’m sorry, Rachel.  What was that?”

“I said, ‘We have money in our Health Care Spending Account that we’re going to lose if we don’t use it before the end of the year.  Go get your hearing checked,” my wife repeated.

Sometimes, I didn’t think she believed me about my hearing.  I scheduled the appointment.  Maybe the doctor would give me some drops or a discreet hearing aid I could use when I felt like I was having a problem.  And then, Rachel would believe I wasn’t just telling a story about my hearing.

I had to take a hearing test as part of my annual flight physical in the Air Force.  I never liked taking them, because the testing booth at the base hospital was no more soundproof than the snack bar at the base bowling alley.  I would nervously hold my breath and push the headphones against my ears in anticipation of the beeps.  Fail the test…lose my wings.

BEEP, BEEP, BEEP.

I squeezed my controller and clicked the button with my thumb.

(Softer): Beep, Beep, Beep.

Click.

(Softer): Beep, beep, beep.

Click.

In the Air Force, once I picked up on the beeping pattern, I’d just count, “One, two, three,” along with the beeps, and when they got so quiet as to be inaudible, I’d continue counting and clicking until I heard the gears of the beep machine spin to reset to a different frequency, which was the signal for me to reset my counting and clicking, too.

But this method didn’t work for me in the soundproof confines of the modern audiology stress chamber.  Straining to hear the beeps, I held my breath and pushed the headphones against my ears, clicking uncertainly to anything I perceived to be a sequence of sounds.

“Tell me why you’re here again, Mr. Wright,” the doctor asked me as she looked over my test results.

“Prolonged exposure to jet engine noise can cause long-term hearing damage,” I began, sharing with her that sometimes at a party or after mowing the lawn, I don’t always understand what’s being said.  “My wife suggested that I make this appointment.”

“I see,” she nodded, scratching her doctor-scribble onto her prescription pad.

“Maybe some drops or a discreet hearing aid,” I thought.

“Read that to me, please,” the doctor said, handing me what she’d written.

“I can’t read this,” I told her.

It wasn’t that I couldn’t understand what she’d written.  I could.  I just couldn’t say it.

“Read it,” she ordered.

“‘Pay attention,’” I read.

“Again.”

“‘Pay attention,’” I repeated.

“That’s right,” the doctor smiled and again picked up my test results.  “Mr. Wright, your hearing is so good, you can hear a pin drop at a cocktail party from three rooms away.”

“But, I used to fly jets, and now, when I mow the lawn…” I protested.

“Stop!” the doctor interrupted.  “You bring that note home and show your wife, and you tell her what I just said.”

“Doctor, can you at least give me some ear drop samples?” I pleaded.  “Just for when I have trouble?”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Wright.  What was that?”

  • Ray

IF YOU AIN’T A PILOT… available in paperback, on Kindle, and on Kindle Unlimited.

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