No two ways about it, noise damages our ears and our hearing. And while anyone can experience a temporary or long-term hearing loss from loud noise, our veterans seem to bear the brunt of it from their working conditions.

The Veterans Administration and the Department of Defense have done multiple studies on the effects of armed combat, blasts, gunfire, toxins, and more on veterans’ hearing. For example, a 2017 study by the Chronic Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium (CENC) of more than 570,000 veterans found that “7.8% of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans had been diagnosed with hearing loss, 6.5% were diagnosed with tinnitus, and 6.2% had both conditions.”

That’s why these lawsuits against 3M are so important – even though these veterans did what they thought was needed to protect their hearing, 3M’s earplugs didn’t do what they claimed.

The Importance Of Hearing Protection In Noisy Environments

Once your hearing has been damaged, it can’t be fixed, only optimized. This is why it’s so important that you make sure to look after your ears and always wear adequate hearing protection when required. You will only regret it if you don’t.

You wouldn’t drive your car without wearing your seatbelt because you know that if you were involved in an accident, your seatbelt is what would save your life. It’s the same with wearing hearing protection – if you want to keep this precious sense safe, you need to take steps to protect it.

The Results Of Not Protecting Your Hearing

The consequences of not protecting your hearing are potential damage to your inner ear hair cells, which leads to tinnitus and hearing loss.

Our ears can only take so much, which means that if you damage your hearing by not wearing adequate ear protection, there’s no going back. Over time, the cells won’t be able to bounce back.

So make sure that whenever you are exposed to loud noises that you wear earmuffs or earplugs that offer the perfect level of hearing protection by blocking out loud sounds.

How Often Do We See Veterans For Hearing Issues?

Here in the southern tip of Florida, I am fortunate to serve veterans and active-duty military personnel in many capacities.

1.  I am the wife of a veteran.

2.  We work with active-duty military personnel – treating hearing loss and tinnitus.

3.  We provide veteran compensation and pension evaluations when hearing loss and tinnitus were acquired in service.

4.  We work with our local veterans administration in their community outreach program.

How 3M Failed Those In Service

In four trials against 3M so far, plaintiffs have won every time, being awarded millions for the hearing loss and tinnitus they got despite using 3M’s Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2. “Plaintiffs allege the company 3M hid design flaws, fudged test results and failed to provide instruction in the proper use of them.”

The job of ear protection is to diminish hazardous noise so that it is not damaging to the ear. Improperly used or faulty equipment is not going to be effective in protecting the ear and the wearer’s hearing.

What Does This Mean For The Future Of Hearing Protection?

I think that this case brings awareness to the need for protecting our ears properly from harmful noise.

Where Else Should I Wear Hearing Protection?

Whether a noise is harmful depends on how loud it is and how long you’re around it.

Noise can affect hearing in several ways.

On-the-job (occupational) noise is one of the most common sources of harmful noise. That’s mainly because you are around it all day for years. For instance, if you work in construction or in a factory, or you are in the military, you may be around harmful noise for several hours each day.

A sudden, extremely loud sound, such as an explosion, a gunshot, or a firecracker close to the ear, can damage any of the structures in the ear. When this happens, it can cause immediate, severe, and often permanent hearing loss. This type of injury often requires medical attention right away.

Loud sounds (like a rock concert) can cause a temporary ringing and hearing loss. Sounds may also seem muffled. These effects usually don’t last more than a few hours, but they might sometimes last several days or weeks.

Repeated, frequent exposure to loud or moderately loud sounds over a long period of time (often years) can cause permanent hearing loss. But this kind of hearing loss can almost always be prevented.

These sounds include recreation and daily activities such as:

  • High-volume music
  • The noise of power tools, like chainsaws or electric drills
  • The noise from lawnmowers, household appliances (such as blenders and vacuum cleaners), and vehicles (such as snowmobiles and motorcycles)
  • Hunting

Are You A Veteran With A Hearing Loss Or Tinnitus?

We can help! Anyone, including veterans, should seek audiology consultation in the event they are experiencing tinnitus and/or difficulty hearing.

One of the best things about working with audiologists like us — experienced in providing veteran compensation and pension evaluations — is that we can answer lots of questions surrounding what the VA needs and their benefits process.

I Think I Have A Hearing Loss. What Should I Do Next?

If you or a loved one thinks you might have a hearing loss, the first step is to get a hearing assessment to determine whether the noise you are (or were) around might be damaging to your ears and hearing.

Schedule a hearing assessment at the location nearest you, or contact me with any questions you have about loud noise exposure and hearing protection.

Even if you haven’t worn hearing protection up to this point, there’s no time like the present to begin.

Do you know somebody that needs to see this? Why not share it?

Dr. Michelle Couture-Souvenir, Au.D

Dr. Michelle Couture-Souvenir, Au.D., is Florida’s leading doctor of audiology and has over 25 years of experience in this dynamic industry. Before setting up her own business in Florida & Central America, she served as a pediatric audiologist and rehabilitative services manager at the Miami Children’s Hospital. She has worked with patients of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds during her long and diverse career, and she is still heavily involved in international humanitarian projects, helping hearing-impaired children globally.