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Ask the Doc: All This Noise is Giving Me Headaches

Image of Ask the Doc: Noise from ship can cause headaches. Try to give your ears a rest when you can. Sailors record information during an exercise in the combat information center of the USS Higgins in the Philippine Sea, March 3, 2022. Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Arthur Rosen.

Hi, Doc,

I keep getting headaches. I've worked in the bowels of a Navy ship nearly my entire career. I love the noise, the smells, and my crews. But as I get older, I've become more sensitive to the constant noise and mechanical humming. Lately, I seem to be getting severe headaches at least once a month. I don't want to stop, but do want to know what I can do. Can you give me some advice?

-- Sr. Chief Henry Humz

Illustration of a male face with the words "Ask the Doc"Dear Sr. Chief: Working with all that noise from equipment can certainly bring on headaches.

I found just the person to talk to about this. I contacted audiologist Dr. Theresa Schulz, the Defense Health Agency's Hearing Center of Excellence Prevention & Surveillance section chief. She's in charge of all the programs to help decrease noise-induced hearing loss in the military.

Here's what Schulz had to say:


It's important to describe your headaches specifically to medical personnel in order to determine possible causes.

Some studies have shown that noise exposure can cause headaches, including migraine and tension-type headaches.

However, there are a variety of other reasons that could be contributing to your headaches, so it's best to talk with your doctor.

The environment in the "bowels of a destroyer" may include odors from fuels, oils, and other chemicals; heat; and high noise.

It's also important to work with your safety and medical personnel to ensure that your personal protective equipment properly fits, and that you are wearing it appropriately.

Hearing protectors can be individually fitted to enhance protection.

Also, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, and get adequate sleep.

Make sure you spend time each day in cooler, quieter areas of the ship to enable your ears to recover from the noisy environment. It's good for your ears and your well-being.

Your safety officer may consult with an industrial hygienist to better understand your exposures to noise and hazardous chemicals. An industrial hygienist would help to recommend the best solution for your work environment.


Sr. Chief, I hope this advice is helpful to you, especially the suggestions about properly wearing your personal protective gear and moving to a quieter part of the ship when you have the opportunity. Also, as soon as you can, talk with your primary care doctor to schedule an appointment for a checkup and hearing evaluation.

Good luck, my friend, and as always…take care out there!

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Last Updated: September 06, 2023
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