Hearing loss is one of the most common military service-related injuries. In fact, a report from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimated that more than 59,000 military personnel are on disability for hearing loss from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. In addition, it is estimated that 414,000 post-9/11 veterans have come home with hearing loss and tinnitus.
So, just how noisy is war? Let’s put it in perspective. Normal conversation is considered to be “safe” at a sound level of 60 decibels, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). But according to a military noise assessment, noise levels are around 130 decibels on flight decks and helicopter noise is around 100 decibels. Additionally, a soldier is exposed to 150 decibels from an M60 machine gun and an exploding grenade can reach 160 decibels if they are standing within 50 feet.
It’s no surprise then that blast pressure also damages hearing. In fact, a single impulse sound such as a gunshot can significantly damage hearing. According to the Center for Public Integrity, “eardrums can rupture at pressure as low as five pounds per square inch (psi). Explosives used in Iraq and Afghanistan create pressure that exceeds 60 psi, according to VA audiology research.”
Hearing loss is so common that it is being dubbed as the “silent epidemic in U.S. troops,” according to NBC News. And, hearing protection has its limits, says Dr. Ben Balough, a Navy captain and chairman of otolaryngology at the Balboa Navy Medical Center in San Diego. “While damage can occur at 80 to 85 decibels — the noise level of a moving tank — the best protection cuts that by only 20 to 25 decibels. That is not enough to protect the ears against an explosion or a firefight, which can range upwards of 183 decibels.”
Although treatment for hearing loss is available for veterans at most veteran’s hospitals, the majority of veterans don’t seek treatment as early as they should. In fact, similar to the civilian population, veterans typically wait at least seven years before seeking treatment according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. ReSound offers a selection of hearing aids through veteran’s hospitals including our newest technology, ReSound LiNXTM. ReSound LiNX offers natural sound, slim design and durable, water-resistant technology.
If you’re a veteran or know a veteran who is struggling with hearing loss, visit www.va.gov/directory/guide/home.asp to find a veteran’s hospital near you and schedule a hearing test.