Space Station Research Group Wins NIOSH Safe-in-Sound Award
On Feb. 21, NIOSH presented its annual Safe-in-Sound Excellence in Hearing Loss Prevention Award to the 2020 winner, the Multilateral Medical Operations Panel (MMOP) Acoustics Sub-Working Group for the International Space Station (ISS). The research group received the award, recognizing innovation in hearing loss prevention, for identifying the risks facing ISS crewmembers and developing solutions to reduce exposure. Acoustical engineers, audiologists, industrial hygienists, and physicians from multiple international space agencies comprise the MMOP Acoustics Sub-Working Group. They work with ISS crewmembers to track noise levels, record noisy tasks and equipment, test equipment before it is sent into orbit, find solutions for reducing noise levels, recommend hearing protection equipment, and perform audiometric tests before, during, and after flights. The ISS functions as a workplace and home for, on average, six astronauts and cosmonauts, who may spend six or more months on the vessel at a time. In orbit, they are constantly exposed to noise from the equipment controlling their air, water supply, and experiments taking place, raising concerns over difficulties in sleeping, communicating, and hearing alarms, and threatening permanent hearing damage. The Acoustics Sub-Working Group was created to address these challenges, and as a result of their success, no permanent mission-related hearing changes have been reported among American crewmembers for the almost 20 years the ISS has been in operation. The award was presented at the Annual Conference of the National Hearing Conservation Association in Destin, Fla. More information is available from NIOSH’s press release. The agency is currently accepting nominations for the 2021 award until July 15, 2020.