June 19, 2007
Gunfire can have a profound impact on soldiers’ hearing, and the long-term effects carry over to their post-military lives. A recent study published earlier this year in Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery found soldiers are at substantial risk of hearing loss due to the “impulse noise” associated with gunfire, often leading to acoustic trauma in 10 to 15 percent of soldiers returning from active military duty (Olszewski, et al, Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, 2007, Vol. 136, Number 1).
The study recommends better hearing protection for military professionals who may be exposed to gunshots and similar noise. Additionally, otolaryngologists and head and neck surgeons are actively working to help soldiers with balance issues related to explosions and gunfire, as well as repairing facial fractures and wounds to the head and neck.
“We must continue to understand the long-term impact of active military duty on our military personnel,” says AAO-HNS Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer, David R. Nielsen, MD. “Long-term hearing loss is a major concern, and severely impacts our soldiers’ abilities to transition back to civilian life. Likewise, injuries to the face, head, and neck are serious issues our physicians and surgeons are working hard to correct. We must continue to research how we can support and protect them as they serve our nation, while preserving their quality of life when they leave active duty.”
The military also offers an opportunity for building professional maturity among many of the Academy’s finest otolaryngologists and head and neck surgeons.
“We are fortunate that many of our members learned the value of otolaryngology while serving in the military,” Nielsen says.