Hearing Protection and our Military
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
There is no doubt that the men and women of our armed services sacrifice so much to keep our country safe. They readily put themselves in harm’s way and often suffer long-term physical and emotional consequences as a result. One common outcome to years of service, surrounded by the loud sounds of gunfire, explosions, engine noise and machinery, is something called noise-induced hearing loss. Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) refers to a permanent, usually high frequency, hearing loss that typically begins in a “notch” formation and spreads to affect more of the individual’s hearing. To learn more about NIHL, check out one of our earlier blogs on the topic.
NIHL and Combat
What is important to know about NIHL is that it is preventable. For the average person, simply avoiding loud situations or using adequate hearing protection is enough to protect your ears from permanent damage. Unfortunately, the issue is a little more complicated for our soldiers. Often times, a solider may find him or herself in a situation of sudden, unexpected noise, such as gunfire, and not have time to put in hearing protection. Wearing hearing protection continually is also not an option because he or she needs to hear orders from commanding officers, communications from other soldiers, and also be aware of his or her surroundings. For those reasons, many of our soldiers have simply gone without adequate protection and as a result, have suffered permanent hearing damage. As this trend becomes more and more prevalent, experts in the fields of hearing loss and hearing conservation have worked together to find a way to protect our soldiers and their ears at that same time. This has led to the introduction of what is called adaptive or digital hearing protection.
Adaptive Hearing Protection
The U.S. Army has developed a hearing protection system called the Tactical Communication and Protective System (TCAPS), which is already being dispensed to the men and women of our armed forces. The TCAPS system is a clever combination of amplification and noise protection that works to allow the user to hear quiet and average sounds at an audible level and reduce the impact of loud sounds using noise-canceling technology, to a safe level.
Those in charge of the TCAPS initiative are confident that the devices will result in fewer veterans with service related hearing loss. Approximately 20,000 units have already been introduced in active duty and the real-life applicability is being tracked closely. In order to be successful, TCAPS must protect our soldiers from loud impact sounds while still allowing them to hear everything they need to hear to keep themselves and their fellow soldiers safe on the battlefield.
For more information on hearing protection options and ways to protect your own hearing, make an appointment to talk to your audiologist at JHBI today.