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Noise in the Military

    RifleMany sources of potentially damaging noise have long existed in military settings. Some of these sources include weapons systems (e.g., Side arms, rifles, machine guns, mortars, artillery pieces, and rockets), wheeled and tracked vehicles, fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, ships, and communications devices. Service members may encounter these noise sources through training, standard military operations and combat. Exposure to combat-related noise may be unpredictable in onset and duration. These episodes may be sudden small arms engagements, IED or explosion in near proximity or sustained loud noise environments. Servicemen may also be exposed to hazardous noise through activities that are not unique to the military environment, including various engineering, industrial, construction, or maintenance tasks.

Hearing Loss

    When hearing loss is known to have occurred as a result of a noise exposure, it has generally been thought that hearing loss for pure tones does not worsen following the cessation of a given noise exposure. However, there are no longitudinal data from humans who developed noise-induced hearing loss in early adulthood and were followed into their 60s, 70s, or 80s. Data from a few longitudinal studies of older adults, which differed in the way prior noise exposure was documented, have not produced conclusive results. There is some research that shows an accelerated loss with aging when combined with noise induced hearing loss. Hearing loss is also associated with Tinnitus, more information about tinnitus can be found here

    Most likely military hearing conservation programs, dating from the late 1970s, were not adequate to protect the hearing of service members. Hearing conservation activities from World War II through the 1970s would have been even less adequate to protect the hearing of service members than the programs in place since the late 1970s, because only early hearing protection devices of limited effectiveness were available and mandatory hearing conservation measures were only fully implemented later.

Medical Records

    SAR ExampleMedical records for veterans with military service should have documented audiometric testing at entrance into the Armed Forces and periodically throughout their military career as PULHEEMS assessments and on discharge. Additionally some courses would necessitate an audiogram and this would also be recordedin the FMED 4/Medical Record. Any change to the H grading should have been documented and investigated. If the Hearing Conservation Program has been carried out correctly then Screening Audiometry should have been perfored every year or every two years. For a period of time pre and post deployment audiograms were also carried out

    A Serviceman’s medical record is available once they leave the Forces. This can be done as a form of Freedom of Information request on a Specific Form and can be downloaded directly from the Government website (Here). The information that you request is related to your hearing and an example of how to fill the form out and what to request can be seen in the example form to the left (Obviously for Army - Amend as necessary!).

    The updated SAR form requests either Drivers Licence or a Passport AND another document to confirm a home address. Be aware this is the address they will send any correspondence to.

    The form is filled out by the Serviceman and then sent to the respective Records Office given on the actual form. The length of time to receive the records depends on how busy the department is and what records are requested. Requesting a complete medical record could involve scanning/copying 100+ pages so will take time. Requesting just audiometric data, PULHHEEMS assessments, entry/discharge medicals and any audiograms would be more reasonable.

Hearing Aid Benefit

    Using a hearing aid presents a number of advantages to a hearing-impaired person. First and foremost, you will hear a lot better. Hearing aids do not restore your hearing to normal, but they improve it significantly. It becomes easier to hear what other people say. Sounds you have not heard for a long time such as birds singing, door bells ringing, the howling of the wind and water running, may become audible to you and may help to alleviate any tinnitus.

    Hearing aids usually improve the user's social, psychological and physical sense of well-being.

    Studies as well as experience show that hearing aids generally improve the quality of life and will help you:

    •    Improve quality of Life
    •    Get a better relationship with your family
    •    Feel better about yourself
    •    Get better mental health
    •    Improve your physical well being
    •    To concentrate better
    •    Feel more independent and secure
    •    Feel less tired or exhausted
    •    Be more able to participate in social gatherings
    •    Be able to increase your social contacts
    •    Be able to do better in your job

Hearing Aids

    Hearings aid are similar to other assistive devices such as glasses, they come in different shapes and sizes and are manufactured by hearing aid companies. The hearing aids currently offered by the NHS are actually very good however they usually only come in the form of Behind-the-Ear (BTE). Even then they can be quite discrete with just a thin tube connecting from the device going into your ear.

    Entry level hearing aids from Hearing Aid Dispensers most likely have better sound quality and the user can usually decide on the body shape/type. Private dispensers are also able to provide ancillary equipment such as TV streamers and remote controls. These can sometimes be purchased for NHS aids.

Hearing Aid Styles

Veterans Hearing Fund

    The Veterans Hearing Fund (VHF) is run by the Royal British Legion (RBL), is a Government-financed fund that provides support to veterans who acquired hearing loss during their service. It is open to those who have a wellbeing need that cannot be met through statutory services (such as the NHS). VHF may fund hearing aids, peripherals or therapies (e.g., lip reading).

    Whilst it is anticipated that the majority of applications will be from within the UK, the fund is also available to overseas personnel. In terms of numbers of eligible individuals, and applications, it is a somewhat unknown entity – there is no clear data on how many applications to expect, or indeed how many are eligible. This in turn gives the RBL a unique opportunity, to collate this information, and build a comprehensive picture of hearing loss within the armed forces.

    In order to determine whether VHF will fund any support, documented evidence must be provided. This can be in the form of any existing War Pension/lump sum for hearing disability, already provided hearing aids by the MoD or having Service Medical Records that show a hearing loss whilst serving (This can be obtained via the SAR Form 1694).

    The VHF eligibility form (Downloadable from Here) is then completed and forwarded to the RBL along with any evidence. The RBL will assess the information and if approved will send the 2nd stage application form. This needs to be completed with an audiologist and once complete returned to the RBL who will assess the information. They will agree to either fund, part fund or refuse the application.
    If approved or part approves the audiologist is informed and then they can proceed to supply the necessary equipment to the requesting Serviceman. If the application is refused then there may be an appeals process.

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