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Cpl. Quinton Milsap, an administrative specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, inserts hearing protection before shooting at the Carlos Hathcock Range aboard the east side of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, June 8. Marines must wear hearing protection while at the range to ensure they reduce any hearing loss caused by shooting their weapons.

Photo by Cpl. Michael Thorn

Changes to the shooting range to protect our Marines’ hearing

10 Jun 2015 | Sgt. Raquel Barraza 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

Marines throughout the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar qualify with M16 or M4 rifles and receive classes on safety while at Carlos Hathcock Range aboard the eastern side of MCAS Miramar, California.

Recently, the industrial hygiene department has added one class to the curriculum specifically pertaining to preventing hearing loss.

Sailors and civilians with the industrial hygiene department, part of the public health directorate, Naval Medical Center San Diego, continue to work with coaches and shooters to ensure they protect their hearing while at the range.

“We’ve been concentrating on noise exposure for the coaches and providing training on how to [properly] put in ear protection,” said Jane Nowell, an industrial hygiene officer with NMCSD.

Along with the classes, Nowell’s team administers tests using specific gear for noise measurement.

“We have acquired some specialized equipment from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, which is specialized noise equipment for measuring impact noise,” said Nowell.

The equipment can detect rapid pressure changes generated by weapons fire. The measurements are then transferred to a computer, which records and analyzes the noise. Many factors are taken into account when conducting these types of tests.

“The pressure change occurs at the end of the barrel, so the barrel length matters because if a barrel length is shorter, the pressure change is closer to the shooters’ ear,” said Nowell.

The industrial hygiene department focused most of their efforts on the coaches at the range while conducting these tests.

“The instructors are here day in and day out, and we’re trying to identify exactly how loud it is so we can develop a protection scheme that keeps them protected, but allows them to accomplish their mission,” said Navy Lt. Doug Rosaaen, an industrial hygiene officer with NMCSD.

Currently, coaches are testing the effectiveness of the industrial hygiene officers’ plan of double hearing protection using the Active Muff along with their regular ear protection.

“[The Active Muffs] have a microphone and amplified speech, but when it gets noisy, they cut off and act like a regular muff,” said Nowell. “So the idea is being able to have communication, but when it’s noisy, able to have that noise mitigated.”

The overall goal for the team is to make sure Marines stay ready and effective in the fighting force.

“Hearing loss is one of the biggest problems we have,” said Rosaaen. “There are a lot of cases where people have heard the wrong thing and therefore executed the incorrect action and can be a danger to themselves and others. So keeping that hearing protected now in a noncombat situation allows them to move forward and execute the proper action when the time comes.”

The industrial hygiene department has worked with the range for more than five years and plans to keep these tests and classes a part of the range so Marines stay protected.

3rd Marine Aircraft Wing