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Remembered Today:

Do most old soldiers having hearing problems?


Guest Jeric
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This, I have been very curious about. Since ear protection is generally not worn in combat, and since firearms are being discharged at close distances, and often in great numbers.. Would most veterans have hearing problems?

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What? What ? Speak louder please!

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If you were a WW1 veteran, you would be aged circa 104 plus. At that age, very many elderly people have hearing problems.

BUT your question is valid though perhaps the use of the word 'veterans' should be replaced by 'former soldier/airman etc etc'.

This would need to be judged post conflict and did society of that time really measure hearing loss?

Also, many former WW1 servicemen served in WW2 so perhaps hearing loss would not have been that great.

This ignores the difference between the sound of small arms, MGs etc being discharged close by, the sound of shell burst AND the effect of continuous use of artillery by those manning the guns.

The answer? I don't know!

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I would think that studies would have been made regarding these things as I am certain that a great number of ex-servicemen would suffer from hearing loss. Or perhaps it is just an accepted job hazard, as I doubt anything could be done to control the environment? Fancy a noiseless artillery piece??

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About 15 years ago a friend of mine was talking to a veteran, (now since left us) and was having difficulty due to his hearing problems.

The veteran said he was deaf because of "those f***ing guns"!

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Very little work has been carried out on this problem if my own experience, and that of my father is anything to go by.

At the start of WW2 my father was already serving with the Royal Artillery and tho' he rarely talked about his time it is reasonable to assume that he heard a fair number of loud bangs.

For a short time after WW2 he was a civilian but he returned to the army in about 1950. He was a weapons training instructor with the RMP and he shot .303 and .22 for Corps and Army up till about 1965. It wasn't until he got a security job in civvy street in about 1975 that he found out that he was partially deaf (high tone deaf) and this was put down to his shooting.

I took up rifle shooting at the age of 11 and continued with .22 pistol and rifle, .303 rifle and 7.65mm as well as Bren guns and sterlings until I was about 40 years old. When I left the forces I was found to have a slight high tone deafness due to.. guess what? You got it- rifle shooting.

The major difference between my case and my fathers is that during most of my shooting career I wore ear protectors and so I can only assume the damage was done when I was quite young.

Garth

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Garth,

How is "high-tone" deafness characterized? Do you miss out on certain sounds only, or is there an overall difficulty of hearing?

A rifle shot, especially .303 or 7.62 would be very loud. I can only imagine a great number being fired close by your ear, and continuously!

Jeric

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I did read that a number of former soldiers were seeking recognition and/or compensation after claiming that many years before they were not given ear defenders when firing their SLRs. Apparently the MoD felt that the rifles' discharges were far enough away from the firers' ears to not warrant such protection.

I don't know how they got on.

Richard

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My grandfather was deaf for many years before he reached old age. My grandmother always attributed it to his two years' service with the RGA during 1914-18. Whether that is the case or not, two years' exposure to that kind of noise certainly would not have helped.

Paul

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I don't think anyone gave the subject any real thought in those days. Safety precautions were pretty well zero.

My grandfather was in the TA (and strangely never called up in WW1) and worked most of his life in a boilermaking shop. He ended up almost stone deaf due to the noise. There were no such things as ear defenders anyway, and no compulsion even to stick cotton wool in his ears.

As with so many other things it was just a case of, 'tough'.

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Garth,

How is "high-tone" deafness characterized? Do you miss out on certain sounds only, or is there an overall difficulty of hearing?

A rifle shot, especially .303 or 7.62 would be very loud. I can only imagine a great number being fired close by your ear, and continuously!

Jeric

Jeric

With high tone deafness you just lose some of your hearing (you may not hear some alarms and bells etc) and , in my case anyway, you hardly notice the difference. My father was worse off but he did a lot more .303 shooting than I did. The case for the 7.62 being less damaging to your hearing is possibly true because of design differences. However I would imagine that a good lawyer could make a case for the complainants. Sadly I would be in a weak position in terms of a claim because I was not a combatant and therefore all the shooting I did was classed as a sport, despite the fact that at my peak I was probably better than your average infantryman.

Garth

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I succesfully sued the Irish Goverment for hearing loss due to firing weapons and there are thousands of others ( Irish soldiers) who did the same. The main reason that our claim was successful was that hearing protection was available and not issued.

Tom.

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I've never had any hearing problems (that I know of), but I always wore hearing protection (usually in the form of one of those little yellow ear-plugs) in my right ear whilst on patrol. Ear defenders were always worn on the range. (I'm talking late 80's, early '90's here, though). My dad (Korea and Malaya - action in both- never has any problems either - though he did the same as me)

Dave.

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Nigel.

Sorry, the compo is gone to that great militaria collection in the museum. If I sue them again I will give you half.

Can't be fairer that that!!.

Tom

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I remember firing the 84mm Carl Gustav recoilless rifle using ear plugs but after I fired the first tptp the bang blew them out of my ears and that was that.

Tom

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My father, who served as a gunner through Sicily, Italy, and North West Europe, eventually received a partial pension from the Canadian government for hearing loss. Obviously those were the days before "ear defencers" were issued. I have even heard of regular and reserve gunners who served in the 60's and 70's receiving small pensions.

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High tone hearing loss can be due to disease or to sustained acoustic trauma.

When tested the graph of hearing loss has certain characteristics depending on age, disease and acoustic trauma.

For age it is generally a fairly gradual decline over the tonal range that humans can hear. For disease and acoustic trauma it has sharp dips and raises (disease) or a sharp fall (never to recover) at a particular frequency which is characteristic of acoustic trauma.

These days loud and sustained music is one of the main causes of acoustic trauma but workplace and even hobbies can be a factor. Generally speaking though these are binaural – both ears – whereas a greater loss in one ear is common in those that have served – particularly infantry and other areas that fire small arms frequently. It is usually the ear that is not in contact with the weapon that is more severely affected – the head, arm, shoulder and weapon providing some protection from the shockwave of the round going “down range”. Those who play with “bigger bangs” like “drop shorts”, “gun plumbers” and mortar numbers tend to have binaural hearing loss (and of course those who are "blown up" can have it one or both sided).

Many do not notice the hearing loss until they become older when there is an overlay from age and it becomes more pronounced.

In Australia, the most common award of pension from “the Repat” (Repatriation Department now Department of Veterans’ Affairs) is probably sensorineural deafness though this was only recognised to a large extent post-WW2 (except for those that were literally deafened). Basically all my family who served in WW2 have pesions for it (amongst other things).

In former lives I assessed these and similar claims for the Repat and did time in the Army (with bangs both big and small) before the widespread use of hearing protection (as an infantryman and as a mortar number). I look forward to my hearing loss…..

Edward

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I have suffered from hearing loss and tinnitus [permanent ringing in the ears] for well over 20 years. Due to childhood infections my hearing may not have ever been A1 but the final straw was a live fire exercise using an M16 in a trench system. Not only did I get the reports from the rifles, but also the noise was reflected back to my ears off the earth walls of the trench from a very short distance at either side of my head.

Result as I said, is permanent ringing in the ears. I don’t hear high tones e.g. some bird song or alarms. Also, because I permanently hear some noise, then I have difficulty interpreting any ‘extra’ when I have to; e.g. if more than one person is speaking at once then I have difficulty sorting out the different messages.

Talking to other ‘old soldiers’ I get the impression that this is a very widespread problem and as my experience shows, not one limited to those who served in the artillery as one might have thought. If that is true today then I see no reason to suspect that it was not also true post 1918

Regards

Michael D.R.

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Guest AmericanDoughboy

Arthur Barraclough, an internationally acclaimed British veteran of the Great War has lost one ear due to combat but has also lost his hearing due to age and past experiences in combat. He is interview in many documentaries, including the most recent "World War I in Color."

-Doughboy

post-8-1091777520.jpg

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While in training we were always issued those silly yellow ear-corks, we rarely used them. Inside the tank, the radio was always on and our helmets plugged in ... I shot competitively for years before the army ... and - you guessed it - have tempermental hearing. Much of this is noted by the girl of my dreams, especially when being "talked to" ... My father, a WWII and Korea vet, had the same problem ... had very expensive hearing aids till he decided not to wear them ... same result ... could hear when he wanted to ...

I think the issue is both a way for people to get compensation ... and a rather prickly sociological one ...

'course it could have been the Jefferson Starship and Yes concerts as well ...

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Dont go to Jefferson Starship concerts Andy, go deaf listening to something better

What happened to the girl of your dreams, or cant you say :D

Only joking Ali

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The noise of a full pitched battle must have been tremendous. In the wake of the movie "Saving Private Ryan", the History Channel here in the US interviewed a number of D-Day vets. One of them commented that one of the things the movie got right was the sheer amount of noise. He said that confusion was the order of the day on the beach, the officers and sergeants were screaming out orders, but no one could hear them. He noted that the sergeant immediately beside him was telling him to do something, but he could only see his mouth moving. No way anyone could come out of that without some sort of hearing loss.

Rod

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