Naval Hospital Bremerton, Washington –
I Am Navy Medicine – HM3 John Ong – Lead Hearing Conservation Tech at NHB
By Douglas H Stutz, NHB/NMRTC Bremerton public affairs officer -- Some patients need an ear full about an earful.
Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class John Ong can provide any such helpful cautioning.
As the lead hearing conservation technician and general duty corpsman for Naval Hospital Bremerton Otorhinolaryngology [better known as Ears, Nose and Throat] department, Ong handles everything from administering hearing tests to counseling patients on just what constitutes healthy hearing.
“Hearing is one of the major senses of the body and shouldn’t be taken for granted, because once you lose it, it’s not coming back. It’s true we have devices and apps to assist with hearing loss and tinnitus, but nothing will restore your full sense of hearing. Not being able to hear can affect our ability to perform while on duty,” said Ong, a Scripps Ranch High, California 2009 graduate and Olongapo City, Philippines native who calls Japan home.
Ong attests that one of the most frequent disruptors in healthy hearing that he encounters when dealing with patients is risk associated with ear wax, as well as deafening sound.
“Some of the most recurring factors I’ve seen on a weekly basis are anything from ear canals blocked with ear wax, ear infections, or damage to the ears due to exposure to loud noises. That damage can be from the workspace environments or listening to music at the gym,” stated Ong, stressing that the do-it-yourself methods some people use to clean their own ears by using a cotton swab or pen actually has the opposite effect of pushing wax buildup further down in the ear, as well as potentially causing an injury inside the ear canal or to the ear drum.
“We recommend to come see us at ENT for ear-cleaning. We’re available Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings by appointment. By having us professionally do it, that limits someone from unintentionally harming their hearing,” added Ong.
Along with following the old adage of not sticking anything in your ear smaller than your elbow, a person’s healthy hearing is also predicated on being able to adequately protect it from damaging, earsplitting noise.
“One of the simplest ways to help protect our hearing starts with the correct placement of hearing protection while in hazardous noise workspaces or recreational activities,” Ong said. “If someone is using hearing protection and taking the time for proper earplug insertion or headphone muff placement, they can help reduce hearing loss and tinnitus significantly.”
“Individuals should make certain the hearing protection is correctly worn or inserted so that they are provided with a good seal that muffles all incoming noise,” continued Ong. “Another day to day skill that we can all practice is to use volume discipline while using personal media and entertainment devices, such as earbuds and headphones. Limiting excessive loud noise exposure will prevent permanent hearing damage.”
As one might expect, there are challenges with providing healthy hearing in a military environment.
“The most challenging part of audiology in a military environment is counseling patients on their hearing test results. Explaining to a patient the differences between hearing loss and a change in their hearing can be complex. Some patients come in convinced that their hearing is poor and in reality the results tell a different story. Hearing is a complex process, and the audiogram is only a small piece of the puzzle. I’ve learned that taking the time to answer patient questions and thoroughly explain the test results as well as kinds of hearing protection, in a patient friendly way, is essential in promoting hearing health and sharing skills on how to protect hearing,” explained Ong.
Ong’s Navy Medicine career – seven years and counting - began when he was studying in the Philippines for a business major that simply didn’t suit what he was looking for.
“That same day, my dad sent me a text telling me that the U.S. Navy was in town looking for volunteers. I didn’t even hesitate. I left class to see if I qualified to join. Next thing I knew I was on a plane to Guam where I processed in, and here I am now,” related Ong, with prior assignments such as team lead for the surgical ward at Naval Hospital Pensacola, Florida, and as an En Route Care corpsman with 3D Medical Battalion, Okinawa, Japan.
“The best part about my career has to be overseas duty stations, having the ability to experience another country’s culture and learn from its history definitely adds to the uniqueness of a military career,” Ong said. “My dad was also in the Navy. He was an aviation boatswain’s mate – fuel. I remembered a patch he had on his pack. At the bottom of the unit patch, it stated, “Without us, pilots are just pedestrians.” Nobody’s job is too insignificant that it doesn’t make a difference.”
For Ong, one of the most gratifying factors - whether it’s assisting retirees or active duty members - is seeing patient’s reaction when they regain some semblance of their hearing.
“It might take the help of an audiologist and hearing aids or something as simple as an ear cleaning, but seeing how these services can really help a patient is gratifying,” said Ong.
When asked to sum up his experience with Navy Medicine in one sentence, Ong replied, “We all have a purpose at sea and or on shore, our fight is keep the fleet healthy and ready to fight.”