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Do military soldiers wear ear protection?

Communication is key to success in the military

Military members are subject to a range of acoustic environments, from gunfire and general loud noise to quieter, but more localized sounds such as the roar of aircraft engines and the claps of distant thunder. These different acoustic environments can lead to varying degrees of hearing damage for servicemen and servicewomen in the military.

At some point, any service member may be required to wear ear protection when exposed to high volume noise or risk damaging their hearing.

Soldiers often wear ear plugs that help protect their ears from a range of potentially harmful noises ranging from gunfire at close ranges all the way up through infrasonic frequencies—those below 16 hertz (Hz).

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Ear plugs and ear muffs

Factors that affect the level of hearing protection required can include:

Activities in which a servicemember is engaged, such as firefights, tank-to-tank gunnery and close combat.

The type of equipment used by a servicemember. For instance, if a soldier is using a mounted machine gun or grenade launcher, they must wear ear protection to protect their hearing from the extreme noise generated by these weapons.  A grenade launcher is an example of an infrasonic weapon.  

Because grenades are small balls of explosive material, they generate infrasonic PING! sounds when they hit their targets during military operations.

The situation in which a servicemember is operating, such as in a vehicle or aircraft. In this type of situation, hearing protection may be required to protect against the "report" of the weapon used by other military personnel.

The amount of training a servicemember receives on the hazards of noise and hearing loss.  Soldiers are trained to recognize the potential threat to hearing as well as how their own equipment may impact their ability to hear.  

If a soldier has been trained in how to identify issues with noise and can safely adjust his or her equipment, then they will not have wear ear protection against elevated noise exposure when they are exposed to high volume sounds.

In general, ear plugs and ear muffs are used to protect hearing against noise that is above the lowest sound level recognized as damaging to hearing. The time that an individual needs to be exposed to a noise before it begins to damage hearing is called a "safe listening" window.  Safe listening windows are the amount of time an individual must be exposed to a noise before it begins to affect his or her hearing.

Communication is vital in the military

In combat situations, the ability to communicate is vital to mission success. Hearing protection can prevent hearing loss while maintaining communication.

Ear plugs and ear muffs are an easy way for servicemembers in the military to protect their hearing while still being able to communicate clearly with other members of their unit.  

However, since ear plugs often lead to a muffled perception of sounds, they should only be used when it would be too dangerous not to wear hearing protection (e.g., tank gunnery and firefights), when non-essential communication is needed (e.g., foot patrols), or when significant noise exposure makes communication inaudible without the use of ear protection (e.g., aerial gunnery).

In these cases, ear plugs allow communication to be clear while still preventing hearing damage.

Communication is key to success in the military

Doctors in the military are often medical personnel.  Genuine injury-related hearing loss cases are as rare as genuine accidental-related ones.  Since such incidents do occur, those affected should seek care if they experience any signs of hearing loss including:

Other symptoms of hearing loss include: experiences with communication difficulties, sudden changes in the quality of voice and reduced ability to understand speech transmitted through telephone calls or television or radio broadcasts, lack of understanding speech transmitted over a noisy environment such as a sporting event, difficulty in understanding telephone conversations because the sound is too quiet.

What to look for

There are a number of steps that should be followed in the event that you suspect a hearing loss. No single test can confirm a hearing loss, but most medical professionals would expect to see several problems. These include:

Sometimes it is difficult for an individual to predict the level of hearing loss which might occur with recreational sound frequencies coupled with exposure over a long period of time. In some cases, such as those involving loud noise or military gunfire in small confined spaces, any audiometric test will show damage.

In other cases such as infrasonic weapons or high noise environments, hearing loss may not be evident until years after the initial exposure to the cause of the hearing loss.

Treatment of hearing loss

If audiometric tests indicate a hearing loss, additional evaluation by an ENT (ear, nose and throat) doctor, or otologist is recommended. The extent of a hearing loss can be determined by taking an audiogram of speech frequencies.

An audiogram is a graph which plots at what level you have difficulty hearing above standard conversational speech.  The lower the number on this graph determines how well you can hear.

Communication devices for the military

In order to protect the hearing of servicemembers, communication devices have been developed. Communication devices are electronic devices that are used to allow servicemembers to communicate in noisy environments.

In the military, communication devices may be used by soldier in combat, tank gunners and other situations where high noise exposure is present.  The devices will help soldiers communicate in low noise environments such as foot patrols and aircraft operations.

Do military soldiers wear ear protection?

In the United States military, earplugs are recommended for ground personnel who operate or perform gunnery in an environment where there is high noise or temperature.  Some types of military personnel wearing ear protection use earplugs while others use earmuffs, and some may use both.

The general rule for all soldiers operating around firearms are in standard IBA rated protective gear and may wear both ear protection devices.

Noise-induced hearing loss is a serious health hazard to many workers in industrial production industries which produce high levels of noise exposure.

What do soldiers use for ear protection?

As previously mentioned, earplugs and earmuffs are the items most servicemembers use for both everyday and combat purposes.  These items are easy to insert and take out of the ears.  They can also be easily removed if it is necessary to communicate with others in a certain situation. Some forms of communication devices include:

  • Surround sound earbuds
  • Audio headsets
  • Communication headsets, which may be used by pilots and aviators, tank gunners, etc.
  • Standard communication headgear
  • Helmet mounted hearing protection which will amplify commands in noisy environments such as tank gunnery or firefights.

However, few do wear ear protection in battle

Noises When Soldiering

The following infographic shows a list of the various noises when you are out and about. Any noise over 70-80db over a long period of time may cause damage to your hearing. A noise of over 120dB may cause immediate harm to your ears

hearing infographic16

Do navy seals wear ear protection?

Noise, in the form of gunfire or explosions, is present in many combat scenarios. Navy seals are designed to be able to react quickly and move quickly to the next designated location. In order for them to do this they need to be able hear commands and overhead aircraft.

Many people believe that navy seals do not use any type of ear protection devices, however, this is not true. Navy seals wear ear protection in combat because they understand the long term effects of exposure to loud noises. Hearing loss is a serious health issue that can be prevented with proper precautions.

Do soldiers go deaf?

In 2001, a study was conducted to determine the effect of exposure to extreme noise. Over 17,000 US soldiers were surveyed. Over half reported hearing loss as a result of loud noises. In addition, 63% of those that had a history of ear injuries experienced hearing loss over time.

Do soldiers wear ear protection World War 2?

Yes they did. In World War 2, ear protection was available. Soldiers wore either ear plugs or a type of headsets that covered the top of their ears with a soft tube. These headsets were often made out of leather and were very uncomfortable.

Ear protection became very popular after the Vietnam war. It was felt that hearing loss being caused by explosions had become an issue for the military during these conflicts. They were unsure whether or not it was safe for personnel to continue to wear traditional headsets with no restriction on the amount of loudness that could hit them over time.

Do military dogs wear ear protection?

They do now. military dogs are now required to wear hearing protection and it is a common practice with all branches of the military. It is now seen as an important part of the dogs training to learn how to adapt and perform at different levels of noise. Currently there are three companies that supply PPE (personal protective equipment) for dogs. Earmark Technologies is one of them.

Please Note: Just because an ear defender is marked, for example, "Gunshot" - it will still cover other things, like "explosions"

Sordin Supreme PRO X SOR75302-X-G-S - Active Adjustable Ear Muffs -...
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Last update on 2021-06-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Other Questions

How much does a soldier's gear cost?

It cost around $18,000 to fully equip a soldier in his gear. The cost was covered by the government. In the US a soldiers equipment include things like:
Combat boots, Advanced Combat Helmet, Camel pack, Carrying bag, Canteen with cover (Camelbak), Cold weather clothing ensemble, Commando belt system w/pouch, Combat jacket and pants (with Gore-Tex), Gloves w/fingerless mittens and knitted gloves, Ground pad system (.5 or .75mm), Helmet w/hood, Night vision goggles etc


Who makes military ammo?

LCAAP are the largest military ammunition suppliers in the world, and supply the US military (all branches). The Radford Army Ammunition Plant (RFAAP) is located in Pulaski County, Virginia. It is the largest employer in Western Loudoun County, with 3,200 employees.

Do soldiers carry two primary weapons?

In the U.S. military, soldiers typically do not carry two weapons. In some cases, a soldier may only carry one weapon and extra ammunition for that weapon, but in most cases the will not soldier will have two primary weapons on them at any given time. This is personal preference of the military personnel that they may choose to carry. Both weapons are carried for a reason and will be based off of the situation in which they are operating at any given time.

Author: Nick

Hi, I am Nick, and I have suffered with ear problems my whole life, mainly tinnitus. I have tried a lot of products to help protect my ears over this period, and several devices to block out the constant ringing

“Are you having problems hearing? If so, those around you already know it. Hearing loss is no laughing matter, so don’t be a punchline.”

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