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Navy audiology increases medical readiness and hearing awareness

Image of Soldier wearing mask, sitting at laptop with a container of ear plugs close by. Click to open a larger version of the image. Navy Lt. Shanece Washington, Navy audiologist, advocates for hearing conservation and education during Audiology Awareness Month. (Photo by Douglas H Stutz, NHB/NMRTC Bremerton.)

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With hearing loss one of the most common disabilities among sailors, Navy audiologists such as Lt. Shanece Washington, provide an impact on their patient’s quality of life and quality of hearing. Give a listen; hearing conservation is at the heart of recognizing October as National Audiology Awareness Month. 

Washington, a Navy Medical Service Corps officer and Occupational Audiologist, is also the Regional Hearing Conservation program manager at Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command (NMRTC) in Bremerton, Washington.. 

Washington grew up in a military family, and always knew from a young age that she wanted to work with military members or veterans. “My father served in the Air Force as a captain and instilled a sense of responsibility and service to community in his children,” said Washington.  

That fatherly advice has also empowered Washington to take on a host of overlapping duties, which include Hearing Conservation Program Manager, COVID-19 Level 1 Triage provider, Occupational Audiology department head, Controlled Substance Inventory board chair, Medical Service Corps secretary, Navy Sexual Assault Prevention Response program-victim advocate, Voting Assistance Officer, Diversity Officer, and Command Managed Equal Opportunity (CMEO) Program Manager.

“All of my assignments have been exciting and challenging in a variety of ways,” Washington said.

Washington’s duty as audiologist directly contribute to the Navy surgeon general priority on operational readiness and Navy Medicine’s core mission of producing force medical readiness and medical force readiness.

“The mission of Navy Audiology is to prevent occupational-related hearing injuries and increase medical readiness. Hearing loss can place members in danger, diminish oral and communication skills, and lead to ineffective command control with a potential for mission failure,” said Washington.  “Hearing directly impacts the ability/inability to localize and identify sound sources in an environment. The vision of Navy Audiology is to ensure mission readiness in world-wide operations by optimizing warfighter lethality, survivability and situational awareness. We accomplish this through advocacy, outreach, training, hearing protection, medical surveillance, and treatment/rehabilitative services.”

As the nation – and armed services – come to grips with confronting not just the current pandemic outbreak, but also racial injustice, Washington’s role as CMEO program manager is crucial in providing all staff members – active duty and civil service – a safe and secure setting to perform to their maximum ability. 

“The CMEO program is in place to ensure an environment that is free from social, personal, and institutional barriers that would prevent service members from rising to the highest level of responsibility possible. The ultimate goal is to foster and promote an environment that prevents harassment and unlawful discrimination. There are six protected categories for which harassment and discrimination are prohibited: race, color, gender (including gender identity), sexual orientation, national origin, and religion,” noted Washington.  

Washington attests that the importance of the CMEO program cannot be understated. 

“Discrimination and harassment undermine the capability of a functioning team and are a disservice to the staff members and beneficiaries we serve at this command. The CMEO program is essential to promoting a positive command climate and fostering an environment where all Service Members can thrive,” Washington said. 

“I hope to promote a climate that goes beyond the idea of equality, but rather highlights the need of equity and equitable practices that must be built into everyday occurrences across the command to ensure equality,” added Washington. “Ultimately, I hope to grow NMRTC Bremerton into an example of best practices for the Department of the Navy’s Equal Opportunity and Sexual Harassment programs.” 

When asked to sum up her Navy Medicine career in one sentence, Washington replied, “My Navy career has been the most challenging and rewarding thing I have ever done, and has propelled me to higher levels of responsibility that I previously had not considered.” 

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