The Impact of the Military on Hearing Health

By Anita Giles MS, CCC-A Audiologist
Physicians Hearing Center

WWI (1914-1918) was fought in the trenches using machine guns and poisonous gas. WWII (1939-1945) was fought using modern artillery and machines, utilizing more airplanes, ships, tanks, and submarines. The development of the atomic bomb was the catalyst ending WWII.

What does this have to do with hearing health?

Losing the ability to hear and communicate was one of the many sacrifices resulting from military service. In the 1940’s, thousands of servicemen and women returned from WWII with significant hearing deficits, which resulted in the inability to recognize speech. Hearing loss turned into a public health concern. The U.S. government responded by establishing multidisciplinary hearing rehabilitation programs at military hospitals to test, monitor and treat hearing issues, which was the driving force in the development of clinical audiology.

In 1943, during WWII, the Army assigned Captain Raymond Carhart, PhD, to head the acoustic division at Deshon General Hospital in Butler, PA. His mission was to provide hearing rehabilitation and dispense hearing aids (HAs) to military personnel coming home with hearing loss. He focused on how HAs help users in everyday speech communication. Since no guidelines existed, he devised methods to evaluate how well the HA user could understand speech. HA fitting and aural rehabilitation procedures were standardized and implemented. The field of clinical audiology was established to assist these service people who required rehabilitation. Dr. Carhart established the first academic audiology program at Northwestern University in 1946.

The term audiology derives from “Audio” (hear) and “Logy” (the study of), defining it as the science of hearing. The profession of Audiology has focused on the measurement of hearing, the impact of hearing loss on communication and social function, as well as treatment options. Audiology training programs developed across the country to meet the needs of persons with loss of hearing.

No matter what branch of service, it is likely that those who serve are, at some time, exposed to noise. Artillery, machine noise, aircraft, combat noise, etc. can impact the ability to hear in the short term and long term. Hearing evaluations are part of a soldier’s life from start to finish determining hearing threshold levels before service and monitoring for change during and after service.

Two of the top health issues affecting both active military and veterans are hearing loss and tinnitus. The Veteran’s Administration is the number one employer of audiologists in the U.S. If you served in the military, the VA provides hearing care for those who qualify.

The veterans of the WWs who sustained hearing loss, have inadvertently provided long-term solutions for anyone with hearing loss. Thank you, veterans, for your service and sacrifices. One of the freedoms that we can thank you for is the opportunity for better hearing health. In honor of their service, seek evaluation and treatment from an audiologist if you experience hearing loss.

Who is the REAL Father of Audiology Robert Traynor | www.hearinghealthmatters.org/hearinginternational

Paternity Suit: Who Is the Real Father of Audiology? | The Hearing Review

Early Clinical Audiology – The Legacy of Dr. Moe Bergman and the WWII Audiologists – Robert Traynor (hearinghealthmatters.org)

Looking Back to 1946: Precepting and Historical Focus on Audiology Programs – The American Academy of Audiology

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