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New custom-molded earplugs sound investment for 560th mechanics

The custom-molded earplugs offer better noise reduction than other models but still allow the human voice to be heard. U. S. Air Force photo by Ray Crayton

The custom-molded earplugs offer better noise reduction than other models but still allow the human voice to be heard. U. S. Air Force photo by Ray Crayton

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- To say they are passionate about their work and beliefs is an understatement. Just ask about 950 employees who have benefitted from their efforts.

After three years and lots of hurdles, Frank Davis, Troy Wagoner and Lance Carter have brought custom-molded earplugs to the 560th C-130 Squadron here.

While the average person may not understand how important the earplugs are to some workers, just ask anyone who routinely works in loud environments.

"I want to be able to hear my kids," said Wagoner, a sheet metal mechanic.

Carter, a fellow sheet metal mechanic, and Davis, who works in flight human resources, said workers being able to hear during and after their careers is what got them on board.

The custom-molded earplugs offer better noise reduction than other models but still allow the human voice to be heard. They're issued to workers as part of their Personal Protective Equipment.

Davis first found out about the earplugs when attending a VPP conference. Convinced they offer the best protection for workers, all three mechanics began gathering data and talking to numerous people for approval.

"We thought it would be easy because it's a great product," Davis explained.

Instead, the trio found out there were numerous people to be convinced. So, to sell the idea, the trio developed the "4 C" approach, detailing the benefits of communication, cost, compliance and comfort.

An early ally, Mark Johnson, their previous director who is now a part of the 402nd Electronics Maintenance Group, pushed hard for the earplugs because he had significant hearing loss.

But David said Maj. Tressie Waldo had the biggest impact.

Waldo, the base audiologist, helped facilitate the approval through the bioenvironmental process - including helping the proposed earplugs meet bio survey criteria.

"We turned the corner when we met her," Davis said. "She already knew the research and validated the info for us."

The trio, along with Mark Cundiff of the 402nd Aircraft Maintenance Support Squadron, then worked an agreement through the North Atlantic Maintenance Supply Agency to purchase the devices.

"Speaking for all three of us and our coworkers, we want to thank all of our leaders for supporting us and making possible this important advance in worker protection," Davis said. "It was the right thing to do."