In the military, as with life in general, hearing is an important element for survival. It’s been described as one of the most important survival senses for Service members. Sound is often the first source of information a Warrior has before direct contact with the enemy. Hearing and listening are fundamental to the instruction, teamwork, and reporting skills that are necessary to accomplish any mission.
Communication is crucial for effective operational planning and execution. Injury to hearing can disrupt communication and substantially affect a service member’s ability to carry out the mission. It can result in the miscommunication or misinterpretation of a command, order, or instruction. Hearing loss can compromise the safety of Service members and their units because it can diminish the ability to identify, receive, and respond to commands and warning signals.
The implications of hearing loss for military personnel are significant both at work and at home. Hearing is essential for maintaining relationships and connections with friends and family, fully participating in team and community activities, and experiencing life events. Hearing makes it possible to engage, listen, laugh, and enjoy many of the things that help shape your quality of life.
Loss of hearing can hinder your ability to participate in and experience many of life’s cherished moments, such as hearing a loved one’s voice or laughter, participating in meaningful conversations with family and friends, hearing the sounds of nature, or listening to favorite shows or sports on TV. Hearing loss has also been linked to feelings of social isolation, depression, and chronic disease.
Given the importance of hearing to your career, interpersonal relationships, achievements, and safety, the human costs of hearing loss are significant. Noise-induced hearing loss, referred to as NIHL, can disrupt readiness and result in decreased operational effectiveness. Keep in mind, NIHL is largely preventable.
Hearing loss also carries an economic toll. The indirect and direct costs associated with Veteran compensation for hearing loss, related injuries, and healthcare accounts for millions of dollars annually. These injuries result in additional expenses in the form of decreased force productivity, loss of qualified Service members, and recruitment and retraining costs.
Given the links between Warrior health, safety, quality of life, economic impact, and mission accomplishment — or defending our nation and its freedoms — hearing is a crucial sense that must be protected.