Attrition: The War On Hearing


March 13,2008: While about 60 percent of troops wounded in Iraq had undiagnosed brain injuries, a large number also have ear damage as well. About ten percent of troops who have served there, whether wounded or not, are collecting disability payments for ear damage or hearing loss. This is not new. For nearly a century (since World War I, and the first large scale use of artillery, mortars and grenades), combat veterans have complained of long term hearing problems. This has led to more effort to develop electronic ear protection, that can allow troops to hear normally, when sound levels are normal, but block out very loud noises. Equipment like this is already available for those who maintain jet engines, and other loud equipment (like tanks). But making this gear rugged enough, and cheap enough, for everyone, will take a few more years. Meanwhile, there are earplugs available that will lessen the damage of very loud noises, and are rugged enough to survive battlefield use. The problem is getting the troops to wear them. Like loud music, many "ordinary" sounds of combat are ignored, but they gradually harm your hearing.


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