Battlefield Hearing Loss
In the UK we have had many soldiers returning home who bear the scars of battle, with prosthetic limbs, burns or difficulties adjusting to life on civvy street. However there is a virtually invisible injury that a high number of soldiers are coming back with and that is some degree of battlefield hearing loss.
All soldiers are advised to wear battlefield hearing protection as it is known that the use of Improvised Explosive Devices is one of the commonest types of attack used on our forces. The fact is that our soldiers have superior firepower and weaponry, but the enemies increased use of these suprise attack devices has led to nearly half of all returning infantry to suffer from some degree of hearing loss, predominantly tinnittus (which is ringing in the ears.)
Watch the footage below of a roadside bomb in Iraq – about 55 seconds in.
If you were close to it you can see how this could cause ear damage.
Common IED’s involve a trip switch or are mobile phone detonated. A plastic drum containing petrol would be rigged up to a mobile phone which when rung from a distance would trigger the explosion. All USA vehicles now have mobile signal jamming equipment but infantry cannot carry this equipment for every individual man or woman foot soldier.
Hear are some shocking facts:-
• More than 60,000 returning soldiers are in receipt of a disability grant for hearing loss.
• Two thirds of armed forces who have been near a blast face irreversible hearing loss.
The causes of battlefield hearing loss
The use of rocket propelled grenades, mortar and improvised ambush incendiary devices cause rapid changes in air pressure which damage the delicate bones within the ear itself, causing damage and hearing loss.
Hearing protection is available to muffle detonation sounds, but it seems a large number of troops would rather have all their senses open to detect any dangers and risk hearing losses as a result, and so might not wear them, or they are not in a situation which they perceive as not requiring them and are caught off guard by a surprise attack.
According to US statistics, the number of military personnel anticipated to end up with hearing loss is projected to increase by 18% annually. Figures from 2011, for US personnel, state that treatment costs for battle induced hearing problems are estimated to cost over a billion dollars total.
Upgraded protective covering, early identification and of course consistent training sessions about the seriousness of hearing loss will reduce those returning home with hearing impairments.