CAMP PENDLETON, CA—Nearly half of all U.S. Marines have some degree of hearing loss when they leave the corps, according to Mike Tianen, an industrial hygienist at Base Camp Pendleton. Therefore, the official U.S. Marine Corps web site, www.Marines.mil, reported this week, the corps is stepping up efforts to prevent “the few and the proud” from becoming the hard of hearing as well.
A revised Marine Corps order, 6260.1E, requires Marines to use the tools included in the Hearing Conservation Program (HCP). This program provides Marines with information on how to protect their ears from sustaining permanent hearing loss.
Now, as part of the HCP, all Marines must take a class on how to wear their hearing protection properly and when to use it. During the class, Marines learn how to detect signs of hearing loss, why it happens, and how permanent damage can occur.
HEARING LOSS COSTS VA OVER $1 BILLION A YEAR
Hearing conservation is not a new concept for the Marine Corps. Last year, for example, it introduced mandatory annual hearing tests for service members. However, the importance of the program is becoming better recognized.
One factor was a report published by the Government Accountability Office in 2011 stating that hearing loss and injury compensation cost the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) $1.1 billion ion 2009. That figure covers payments to more than 1 million claimants from all the military services.
The high rate of hearing loss among the Marines is largely a result of their central role in the past decade’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Improvised explosive devices (IEDs), gunfire, missiles, and other loud weaponry have made these protracted conflicts among the worst ever for combatants’ hearing.