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Hearing loss is a worldwide phenomenon that affects over a billion people, but did you know that soldiers are at an increased risk for long-term damage? Find out more in this week’s Audicus blog!

Soldiers and Hearing Loss

Memorial Day is a time to commemorate soldiers who have made extensive sacrifices for both America and other nations across the globe. Part of this commemoration includes acknowledging all of the hardships that soldiers face on and off the battlefield.

In addition to physical assault during service and a lack of financial compensation after active duty, hearing loss is another neglected issue that often isn’t brought to light.

Causes of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss in soldiers can come from a wide variety of sources, including noise from gunshots, firefights, roadside bombs, and helicopters. Roadside bombs in particular create drastic changes in air pressure that can cause significant damage to the eardrum as well as break small bones that makeup part of the ear’s auditory system.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, hearing loss tops the list when it comes to ailments incurred during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tinnitus, a hearing condition characterized by a buzzing or ringing sensation in the ears, is also a condition faced by soldiers during active service. In 2008, nearly 5% of the 1.3 million soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan experienced tinnitus.

According to data from the fiscal year 2010, hearing-related ailments resulted in more than $1.4 billion in veteran disability payments annually, with $216 being spent on hearing devices. The magnitude of hearing loss in soldiers may not be readily apparent as many cases go unreported.

Soldiers may not purchase hearing aids due to embarrassment from having to wear them in public as well as denial that their hearing damage is even an issue.

Preventative Measures Against Hearing Loss

Exposure to loud noises is common for soldiers on active duty. Earplugs may compromise fast, efficient communication between personnel or awareness of one’s surroundings, and sudden ambushes or roadside bombs wouldn’t leave much time to use protective hearing equipment. However, there are a few preventative measures that can help protect your hearing.

Be sure to take advantage of military-issued hearing protection. Wear protection when on the road in case you are exposed to roadside bombs or other weaponry.

Many instances of hearing damage happen when roadside bombs go off unexpectedly, wounding unsuspecting soldiers that did not have their military-issued hearing protection fully equipped.

Feel free to wear earplugs off duty in places where the noise level is negatively impacting your hearing and take small, 15-minute breaks in between noisy settings.

It is incredibly important that you get your hearing checked regularly. Schedule hearing tests before and after patrols and continue to have regular hearing tests after you are removed from duty. Hearing loss symptoms may not immediately seem apparent, and recognizing a problem earlier on will help prevent further hearing damage from taking place.

By: Aaron Rodriques