The right hearing protection could have made all the difference, which is why we place so much focus on quality hearing healthcare for everyone, especially those in loud noise environments.
Some veterans are taking matters into their own hands when it comes to holding those responsible accountable, and so far 3M has lost four cases against veterans due to their inadequate earplugs.
Why Is Hearing Protection So Important?
There are not too many things we have control over in life, but protecting our hearing is one. A general rule of thumb is that if you find yourself in an environment where you have to shout to be heard, then you are in an environment that is loud enough to cause hearing loss.
With the strong correlation between hearing loss and dementia, we should all be more aware of how and when to protect our hearing.
What Could Happen If You Don’t Adequately Protect Your Hearing?
When one is exposed to loud sounds without the use of hearing protection, there is a risk of hearing loss and/or tinnitus.
Tinnitus is caused by damage to the tiny hair cells that line the cochlea after loud noise exposure. The hair cells are arranged in neat little rows, and when loud sound waves come through, they can bend – much like tall grass does when there is strong wind. If enough of them bend, then you will also experience some hearing loss.
Within 24 to 48 hours, the cells can recover and the symptoms subside. However, repeated bending of the hair cells can cause them to break, and when they do, the damage is permanent.
How Often Do Audiologists See Veterans?
Here in Midland, Texas, we do compensation and pension exams for veterans in our office, so we discuss this quite a bit. The most common complaint from veterans is hearing loss and/or tinnitus.
I am saddened that something so preventable is such a problem. These men and women fight to keep our country safe and come back with preventable permanent disabilities.
Yes, hearing loss and tinnitus are disabilities. When the ability to communicate effectively is compromised because of hearing loss, you are at a disadvantage. The hearing loss will most likely worsen over time, so the veterans are concerned because many of them are young.
How 3M’s Inadequate Earplugs Failed U.S. Army Veterans
I have seen many veterans who have a hearing loss because of 3M’s earplugs. The high dollar verdicts that are being awarded go to show just how important our hearing really is.
Some veterans will receive a disability determination based on the test results we get. This means they will receive compensation from the government for the rest of their lives for a hearing loss which could have been totally avoided with proper hearing protection.
Those dollars could be better spent. If each and every member of the armed forces received a custom pair of earplugs, the upfront cost would be higher, but in the long run, the government would save money by not having to pay for a lifetime of disability.
What Do The Lawsuits Against 3M Mean For The Future Of Hearing Protection?
I see things getting better – many veterans with high-noise-exposure jobs are now put on a hearing conservation program. At least the government is aware of the effects of noise and trying to do something about it.
I don’t think the reputation of wearing hearing protection will be affected. I think that people will have more awareness about hearing protection and the need for it to be worn correctly to be effective.
Hopefully, more time will be spent on education about the proper insertion of hearing protection. More importantly, I hope that people will learn that hearing is important, and that hearing loss is preventable.
When Should You Wear Hearing Protection?
In our neck of the woods, we have two common areas where people are exposed to loud noise: the oilfield and when hunting.
The excuse for not using hearing protection in both of these environments is that you need to be able to hear certain things, but there’s a solution for that – custom hearing protection!
- There can either be a filter or radio receiver added to the earplug if in the oilfield.
- Hunters can use electronic plugs that amplify sounds around them when it is quiet and filter out the noise of gunshots.
Know Any Veterans With A Hearing Loss?
Many veterans do not want to file a claim about their hearing. However, I always advise them to do it because I feel like they should at least establish that there is a problem that was caused during their service.
Sometimes, if they wait too long, it is harder to get in the VA system. If they do not want to go the VA route, I encourage them to take care of their hearing loss on their own.
We take care of many veterans who got their hearing aids through the VA, and it is easier for them to come to us for programming and maintenance. Now with the Veteran’s Choice Program, veterans can choose to get their care outside of the VA clinics.
There is no reason for veterans to suffer.
What Should People Do To Protect Their Hearing?
We encourage everyone, including all veterans, to have a baseline hearing test. This is so important because illnesses or accidents may cause hearing to change, but without a baseline there is no way to know why or how much.
Custom hearing protection is a great solution. Different people have different needs based on their lifestyles, and these days there is a unique solution for any high-noise situation – for example, in-ear monitors for musicians.
Custom hearing protection is way more comfortable, and the chances of wearing it incorrectly are very slim because it just fits one way.
Hearing prevention is always better than any hearing treatment.