No, you definitely won’t see it in their faces; hearing loss is not as apparent an injury as a loss of a limb or loss of sight in veterans. For an active duty soldier, however, the lack of the full power of the ears could be fatal. In modern warfare, inability to hear could mean you won’t know an enemy is upon you unless he manifests visually – a great disadvantage in any language.
Piling up Damage
Today, a good ear is certainly getting scarce among war veterans in the post-911 era. Government data show there were over 414,000 veterans who came home with hearing loss and tinnitus – a condition marked by a ringing in the ears.
That alone makes hearing loss and other auditory complications the most common injury for former active-duty soldiers. And with the large numbers comes a large bill. Hearing complications extract over $1.4 billion from the veterans’ disability payments annually, the Department of Defense Hearing Center of Excellence details.
Worse, the Veterans Benefits Administration reveals incidents of auditory injury are rising by 13 to 18 percent.
Addressing the American Cochlear Implant Alliance, Maj. Gen. Robert Hedelund warned: “I don’t think any young man or woman joining the Marine Corps thinks that in four years or in 40 years, you will come away from your experience serving your country deaf.”
Getting Ear Protection
In this regard, putting emphasis on military electronic hearing protection is of paramount importance.
As military personnel on active duty could be exposed to louder-than-normal decibels, hearing protection devices are a must-have. To note, hearing protection does not totally eliminate sound, rather its purpose is to reduce the impact to a level so no lasting damage is caused.
Know that hearing loss usually happens gradually. This means it can go unnoticed for some time until the damage is already severe. It’s normal, for instance, for many veterans to declare their hearing is perfect until a visit to the EENT clinic tells them otherwise.
Certainly, your ears are as valuable as any of your other senses; giving them protection in times of conflict is a must.