Hearing loss and hearing issues such as tinnitus are directly related to noise levels that the ear is subjected to, especially over longer periods of time. Members of the various armed forces are often in very high noise environments and as such often suffer from either a loss of hearing or the onset of tinnitus which can last a lifetime.
We have a number of readers who are military vets who have exactly that problem, with tinnitus being the ones that is most disturbing since the damage to the ear is almost impossible to repair.
Just to get an idea of what these folks go through, here are some examples of noise levels in a variety of environments, starting with quiet and working up. Note that the military tend to be in the upper end of this chart.
Noise Levels Comparison in dB
|Environment||Noise level in dB|
|Arbitrary base line, radio/TV-audio in living room||
|Quiet rural area, 1/16 as loud as 70dB||
|Conversation in a restaurant, ½ as loud as 70dB||
|Shooter of M16A2, (peak) 256 times as loud as 70dB||
|7.62 mm machine gun fired from a HMMWV||
|155 mm towed Howitzer firing M203 propellant||
|Aircraft Carrier (CVS), flight deck, 32-64 times louder than 70dB||
|Cockpit Noise in the C130K, peak, 12 times louder than 70dB||
|Fuselage noise F-16, normal||100|
The data on the military exposure is taken from a NATO report on military noise environments (http://ftp.rta.nato.int/public/PubFullText/RTO/TR/RTO-TR-HFM-147/TR-HFM-147-03.pdf). The other data is from the Industrial Noise Control website (http://www.industrialnoisecontrol.com/comparative-noise-examples.htm)
Considering that repeated exposure to dB levels of over 140 can lead to eardrum rupture, the extreme levels the military can be exposed to can obviously lead to some serious hearing issues.
Noise Protection Gear not Used
Paradoxically, although the military often issues noise suppression equipment to solders on the ground, they are often not used because of the necessity of hearing as much of the environment as possible to protect themselves from enemy attack.
Though we can’t protect soldiers from the sounds of war, except by keeping them out of war zones, we can help them when they get back with a simple solution of carefully selected audio CDs and a speaker pillow that helps beat tinnitus.