The sounds of freedom. Everyone has heard them — artillery explosions, machine guns, small arms fire.

For us in our homes, those sounds may seem distant and just background noise. The ones pulling the triggers get the full force of those sounds, which can cause detrimental and permanent damage.

A pair of audiologists at Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune (NMCCL), who are passionate about conserving the hearing of those behind the weapons, were recently recognized as Navy Audiologists of the Year for their work in hearing conservation.

Lt. Maggie McCarthy was named 2018 active-duty Audiologist of the Year, while Jeffrey Russell was named 2018 civilian Navy Audiologist of the Year.

Both audiologists understand the significant exposure to hazardous noise, specifically of Marines, and were driven to become audiologists to help prevent hearing loss to this group of service members.

McCarthy’s father was a Marine who suffers from hearing loss due to his career, she said. Learning about the Marine Corps’ smaller priority placed on hearing conservation encouraged McCarthy to work toward helping the population.

McCarthy, who has been in the Navy for just more than four years, was nominated for the award along with only four other Navy active-duty audiologists. Navy audiologists total less than 30 throughout the entire branch.

The recognition, she said, is proof to her dedication to her Naval career first and then her passion for hearing conservation.

“Being the only audiologist at my previous command (U.S. Navy Hospital Rota, Spain) … I mentored quite a few Sailors,” McCarthy said. “My chain of command recognized me for the work I did with my Sailors; the work I did outside of my specialty as an audiologist. … I am a Naval officer first, which means taking care of my staff, and being able to mentor some awesome Sailors who are doing some really awesome things is definitely what I am most proud and grateful for my command recognizing.”

At NMCCL, McCarthy and Russell work side-by-side focusing on the hearing conservation and prevention of hearing loss of the younger active-duty population of Marines. Their research includes times at ranges with Marine units taking readings of noise levels and hazards in an effort to aid in the creation of more effective hearing protection as well as weapons with better suppression systems.

“Often people don’t know what’s happening in their ears,” said McCarthy. “It is our job to educate and protect them as much as possible.”

For more than two decades, Russell has been an audiologist specializing in noise-induced hearing loss research and treatment. In the last 11 years, Russell has practiced as a civilian Navy audiologist, wanting to reach the unique population that is Marines.

“I am proud of the awesome capabilities of our combat Marines, and it is my mission to minimize hearing loss incurred during training exercises,” Russell said.

Support from leadership within NMCCL and the Marine units he works with, Russell explained, is a contributing factor to his recent recognition as civilian Audiologist of the Year for the entire Navy.

The award reflects on the importance of audiology to active-duty service members, Russell said, especially Marines, where “every Marine is a rifleman” being exposed to noise.

“To be named civilian Navy Audiologist of the Year is a recognition of the fact that, in hearing conservation, we do not simply see patients and document hearing loss,” said Russell. “My focus and mission is to develop better techniques to assess, predict and prevent the individual and operational effects of these noise exposures.”