My hearing loss is believed to be caused by noise exposure. For me, we had pretty much a constant … you know, we had the hum, the scream of generators, you had vehicles.
Growing up, my family was avid hunters so we were constantly out hunting. I mean … I wore my hearing protection as much as I could.
I attended concerts that by the time I left at night the ears were just muffled.
The closest I was to a missile was about a block and a half from a SCUD missile that hit in Riyadh in the buildings.
So not only was I a mechanic on the aircraft, but we were going out as a Flight for Life for the island.
The fire station’s right on the flight line, so you can’t be wearing hearing protection 24/7. So you’re outside. You know, I’m a prior smoker, so I’m outside smoking. The aircraft are flying over constantly.
When we first got to Iraq in 2003, you know, they were finding cachés of IEDs. So, you know, they would blow those. It wasn’t a constant series of explosions, but there was several loud noises. The generators never go away.
When I first noticed that I had hearing loss, I ignored it. I didn’t think it was true. And I thought I was hearing everything the right way. Everybody else was wrong.
Background noise would wash out conversations for me, which was kind of annoying when you’re in briefings. You can hear something in the background and then you can’t hear the person that is speaking.
And that’s your first step to understanding that you might have a problem. And if you ignore it, then it slowly progresses. And as it slowly progresses, then by the time you realize it again, it’s too late.
We had the helmet to put on our head when we were flying, but there were times that I was helping the medic on board and I might not have been able to hear them. And I would actually take off my helmet. So you have the running of the aircraft, which they’re loud … so I could hear them.
I wear my hearing protection, like it’s given out at SRP. We all have it. We do wear it. It’s just … is it in tight enough? Are we actually using it correctly? All that stuff goes into account and you don’t know until you miss hearing. You don’t have it any more.
It’s the sense that you won’t know you lost until it’s gone.