Fitness for Duty/Hearing Readiness
The ability to hear and communicate is critical to the safety of each Warrior and their unit, and is central to effective command and control and mission accomplishment. In spite of current hearing conservation efforts, hearing loss and auditory injuries in the military continue to rise.
Although the services teach the importance of hearing protection, provide the means for hearing protection, and monitor risk through conservation programs, the need for good hearing during battle often overrides the expediency of wearing hearing protection devices.
Some military members equate using hearing protection with increased vulnerability, which widens the gap between preventive efforts and hearing preservation.
While hearing damage from war can be acutely traumatic, the effect of occupational exposure is silent and deceptive — often unapparent even to the member with impaired hearing. In fact, Service members and Veterans may not realize they have hearing loss until later in life when other sensory cues lose acuity and they’re unable to register conversations and natural sounds.
Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, most often is a subtle nuisance that interferes with the normal activities of daily life, conversations, and relationships. At the other end of the spectrum, however, it can:
- Be a debilitating intrusion on all thoughts, interactions, and activities
- Isolate an individual from hobbies, vocations, friends, and family members
- Be distracting when trying to sleep or concentrate
- Aggravate depression, and
- Incite suicidal intentions, in extreme situations
Keep in mind that although hearing aids and implants can rehabilitate hearing loss to some degree, there is no cure for hearing loss and no sure remedy for tinnitus.