Federal agencies Hearing loss

International Space Station acoustics subgroup wins NIOSH’s annual Safe-in-Sound award

Photo: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center

Miramar Beach, FL — The Multilateral Medical Operations Panel Acoustics Sub-Working Group for the International Space Station is the recipient of the 2020 NIOSH Safe-in-Sound Excellence in Hearing Loss Prevention Award.

The award recognizes organizations and professionals who implement effective practices or innovations to help prevent noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus among workers exposed to noise on the job. The National Hearing Conservation Association presented the award in conjunction with NIOSH and the Council for Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation.

According to a Feb. 18 NIOSH press release, the crew of the ISS – which houses about six astronauts and cosmonauts at a time – has not experienced a “permanent mission-related” hearing change since crews began residing there in November 2000.

While in orbit, crew members are constantly exposed to noise from equipment that controls basic amenities and sounds related to various experiments conducted on board. The MMOP acoustics subgroup – comprising acoustical engineers, audiologists, industrial hygienists and physicians representing NASA; the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency; and the Canadian, European and Russian space agencies – earned commendation for managing varied occupational noise hazards by:

  • Monitoring noise levels, as well as developing and implementing noise-reduction solutions.
  • Identifying noisy tasks or equipment for the crew’s Noise Hazard Inventory.
  • Testing noise levels of equipment before it was sent to the ISS.
  • Recommending hearing protection devices to reduce noise exposures.
  • Performing audiometric testing before, during and after flights.

“Through this extraordinary program, astronauts really are truly safe in sound,” Dennis Driscoll, past president of NHCA and an award panel member, said during the Feb. 21 award presentation at the association’s annual meeting.


NIOSH, NHCA and CAOHC are accepting nominations for the 2021 award through July 15. Anyone interested in submitting a nomination can email [email protected]. The winner will be recognized at NHCA’s next annual conference, set for Feb. 11-13 in Albuquerque, NM.

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