Saving Your Hearing in the Armed Forces

Repeated exposure to loud noise is one of the most reliable ways to end up with hearing loss. Typically, OSHA sets certain standards for how loud a workplace can be so that employees who work there on a daily basis won’t lose their hearing — there are such things as mandated level of hearing protection.

One workplace that doesn’t get a lot of attention in terms of hearing loss is the armed forces. Being an active duty military person actually increases the chances that you will eventually lose your hearing — there are currently more than 933,000 Veterans receiving disability compensation for hearing loss, and nearly 1.3 million receiving compensation for tinnitus.

The military does have standard-issue earplugs, but there are two problems with this: the nature of the military, with 24/7 service under less than ideal conditions and with a ton of stress, are not conducive to soldiers reliably wearing their hearing protection. And, the hearing protection being handed out (those who served in the military between 2003 and 2015 were issued 3M Earplugs) is not necessarily of the highest quality. The result is too many veterans with hearing loss.

What can you do about this? If you’re currently in the armed forces, about to deploy, or know someone who is, consider adding a custom level of hearing protection to help save the person’s hearing. Custom hearing protection will fit better and likely be better at cutting out external noise.

Some other things we would recommend in relation to hearing protection specifically for the military:

  1. Low profile — so they can fit similarly to the standard-issue earplugs and not draw attention. They’ll also fit better with other pieces of equipment like helmets.
  2. Tough — the earplugs will obviously be exposed to a wide range of environments and working conditions. You want something that’s not going to pick up dirt right away and become unusable. Ideally, the earplugs will be washable so they can be restored and used again.
  3. Replaceable — if you’re leaving on a tour of duty, we would say that you should probably bring at least 5 pairs of your custom hearing protection, to account for ones you lose, that break, or other unexpected scenarios. So, in this case, we would actually go with cheaper and more easily replaceable hearing protection, because having more sets on hand is simply better. Of course, soldiers get mail, so it’s always possible to put in an order back home for a few more sets of earplugs when you’re about to run out.

To get yourself or your loved one set up with a set of custom earplugs, reach out to us today!

About Dr. Marie Vetter-Toalson Au.D.

Dr. Marie Vetter-Toalson Au.D. is the owner of Chicago Hearing Services and a Doctor of Audiology dedicated to empowering her patients and the public with greater knowledge and education around hearing health.