Whidbey News-Times


Navy folks have recourse, we don’t | Letter

July 6, 2013 · Updated 3:19 PM


The effects of hearing loss on individuals, family and community are numerous.

The greatest effect is the sense of isolation most people experience when they have a hearing loss.

This sense of isolation is exacerbated by the invisibility of the handicap and the misunderstanding of the loss and often we make choices not to do anything about it.

Most of us know when we have difficulty seeing, break a bone, have cancer, heart disease, the flu, a virus, etc. because we either tell everyone in our lives about it or it is usually visible to others.

Hearing loss is not.

Hearing loss is usually accompanied by those annoying noises in the ear which get louder as the hearing loss progresses.

The isolation often occurs first in the home where loved ones usually get annoyed because they have to repeat themselves once too often, or they speak with their back to us, or they shout at us — all things that decreases communication and raises stress.

People with hearing loss have difficulty communicating on the phone, hearing TV, hearing in cars, hearing in any environment where there is background noise.

With children, it impacts their learning, education and social acceptance.

Hearing loss is often confused with lack of intelligence, the aging process and a number of other prejudices.

It is complicated by the fact that most hearing loss starts at the higher frequencies where the consonants of the English language are.

It becomes particularly difficult when people talk fast or in higher pitched voices and the processing part of our brains cannot keep up to interpret the “mumbling” causing more isolation, more stress and less socializing.

I am simplifying the complications of hearing, but am trying to get across the difficulties that people with this loss have.

In most situations we can choose to protect our hearing, particularly when it comes to noise exposure.

OSHA and L&I have rules in place to protect citizens from those harmful noises, and if they do not, then the industry is responsible and must compensate those who have been injured.

In the military that also holds true, and it does not matter which branch of the military.

In my long career as an audiologist, I often adjudicated members of the military and veterans for hearing loss due to noise exposure. Sometimes it was difficult to determine whether or not the loss may have been from recreational shooting, from firecrackers, chain saws or from actual service-related injuries.

But because these service members were exposed to known noise exposure of military nature, we were always requested to err on the side of the service members.

Military members have recourse and certainly use it and should in return for their service in the new and leading environmentally- more-friendly Navy which has continued to strive for a balance between the needs of the military and the needs of our environment for the good of us all.

With the continuous exposure not just to noise, but to jet fuel emissions and exposure to a possible crash, Whidbey Island Naval Air Station has exposed the citizens of Central Whidbey to friendly fire via the Growler jets without any recourse except through civic protest.

We all have served this country in one way or the other and if by nothing else through our taxes that have supported the military throughout our working lives.

When some citizens only recognize that their Constitutional rights have been infringed upon without recognizing that those who oppose their views have also had their rights infringed upon, the idea of freedom, democracy, patriots, etc. go out the window.

It’s time to take a course in history and civics to educate ourselves.

I can only address the facts of hearing since I am an expert in that, and I do expect that those that do not seem to care that we are sacrificing our hearing and its consequences along with the other, well documented, effects of noise exposure unwillingly and without any recourse respect why we are using the only recourse left to us.

Marianne Brabanski


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