soldier trying to hear

How Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Affects Combat Performance in Military

It’s estimated that over 17% of adults in the United States suffer from noise-induced hearing loss. Whether it’s excessive use of power tools or one too many rock concerts, there are many causes for this disorder.

However, veterans are more likely than most civilians to suffer these effects. While on the battlefield, this can result in hearing incorrect commands, misidentifying targets, and more. While at home, this can result in missing important social cues, struggling to keep a conversation, and social withdrawal.

That’s why we’ve assembled an article on how noise-induced hearing loss affects combat performance in the military. Let’s get started.

What Causes Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss in soldiers is common. They’re exposed to extremely loud noises consistently throughout their deployment. Often, they’re unable to remove themselves from the noisy and damaging environment.

From gunshots and heavy machinery to jet engines , soldiers are often exposed to high decibel noises. This can often cause sensorineural hearing loss, which is what happens when the inner ear and auditory nerve are damaged. When this occurs, physicians often recommend hearing aids.

Auditory processing disorder often occurs during hearing damage. Sometimes, soldiers will attain normal scores on hearing tests. But when someone speaks, they have a hard time processing what was said.

Tinnitus is another issue. This occurs when someone experiences constant ringing or buzzing in their ears. This happens whether there’s external noise or not. In soldiers, this often causes difficulty in concentrating and a loss of sleep.

How Does Hearing Loss Impact Combat Performance?

When in combat, reaction time is everything. It can spell the difference between surviving or not. This means that each soldier needs to be on top of their game, physically and mentally.

Hearing loss in the military has a real impact on soldier survival rates. When soldiers are dealing with poor hearing, they tend to eliminate fewer enemy targets.

Why? For starters, they often misidentify commands. In the heat of the moment, soldiers may not be able to get a command repeated.

This leads to a breakdown in communication, which can be fatal. Soldiers also lose awareness of their surroundings.

This doesn’t just affect infantry soldiers. There was a study conducted on soldiers that operated tanks through a combat simulator. During the simulator, the teams with an adjusted hearing deficiency resulted in fewer enemies being killed. Hearing loss may cause an increase in mortality rates and reduce the efficacy of soldiers on the front lines.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

When dealing with noise-induced hearing loss, it’s important to leverage the resources you need. The right solutions will improve your quality of life, social interactions, and overall safety.

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