Current and prior Air Force and Army audiologists in San Antonio, Texas, are delivering a message loud and clear to San Antonio elementary school students about the importance of protecting their hearing.
Although Operation BANG (Be Aware of Noise Generation) is a program for people of all ages, the audiologists are involved in an aggressive campaign to reach out to young people.
“Our goal is to visit at least one school per school district in San Antonio this year,” said Capt. Tressie Waldo, hearing conservation course director at the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine at Brooks AFB and the program’s chairman. She presented the program to 450 students at a Burnet Elementary School in downtown San Antonio, Nov. 2-4. “There are 16 school districts in San Antonio, so we’ll be on a steady pace from now until the end of the school year.”
The program earned resounding approval from the students at Burnet. “The students loved the presentation,” said Burnet Counselor Johnny Love. “I would recommend the presentation to other schools. Captain Waldo really connected with the students.”
Operation BANG’s roots date back to 1989 when officials from McClellan AFB, CA, visited a Sacramento, CA, elementary school with an hour-long demonstration to fourth graders. The students’ response was overwhelming. Following a tour of the base, the students wrote letters of thanks, and in years to follow, students drew posters to show what they learned. A few years later, Hill AFB, Utah, created a version of Operation BANG for its industrial workers by changing the program to better fit an adult population, Waldo said.
Studies show 3 percent of first through third graders and 22 percent of high school aged children demonstrated hearing loss due to noise. Waldo said noise-induced hearing loss is not correctable, but it is preventable.
“Early education in the classroom is the key in preventing noise-induced hearing loss,” she said.
Wilford Hall Staff Audiologist Capt. Brien Weston is one of the briefers who is very interested in spreading the word about noise induced hearing loss. “Noise induced hearing loss is completely preventable,” said Weston, who wears a hearing aid due to many ear infections he had as a child. “Although the ear infections were not preventable, I know first hand what hearing loss is like and I want to spread the word to prevent noise induced hearing loss as much as possible.”
Weston said the time to start educating people about hearing loss is when they’re young-before they get into habits that might risk their hearing. “Every day I see people with noise induced hearing loss caused in a variety of ways ranging from working in noisy areas without adequate hearing protection to listening to loud music with headphones and popping fireworks,” he said. “Even a loud lawn mower can cause hearing loss if you’re exposed to it long enough.”
The program falls under the Air Force Surgeon General’s goals of prevention and community based activities, she said. To meet these goals, Operation BANG officials are developing a standardized curriculum with one hour sessions each day. However, audiologists can tailor the presentations to meet a school’s time constraints and younger grades. Waldo visited a local health and medicine exposition, where she received ideas for handouts and homework materials.
“In the three-day presentation, we present on the first day background information through lectures on anatomy and physiology of the ear, recognizing harmful noise levels and acoustics of sound,” Waldo said. “We come back on the second day with noise demonstrations that allow students to relate to the effects of noise.”
Day three ties days one and two together by teaching the importance of hearing and prevention of hearing loss. The program includes a testimony from a person with a hearing loss or hearing-related disorder attributed to noise, and audio demonstrations simulating noise-induced hearing loss, which according to Waldo, enhance appreciation of hearing. Students also receive earplug fittings to ensure they are prepared to protect themselves during times of exposure to noise.
“We’ve included some proven lesson plans, as well as some new ideas,” she said. “One of those new ideas came from Lt. Col. John Allen (the Air Force’s associate chief of Audiology and Speech Pathology.) He uses students from the class to portray different parts of the ear and demonstrate how sound moves through the system.”
This article originally appeared in the Brooks AFB newspaper: Discovery
Thanks to: Ed Shannon
311 HSW Public Affairs, Brooks AFB, TX