T Nation

Infantry And Hearing Loss


I am debating in my mind joining an army infantry unit or not. A big concern of mine would be the obvious danger of hearing loss. I have no idea of the noise levels involved in being a rifleman, and am anxious about the subject.

Any comments? Related experience?

Any help would be appreciated.


I can tell you right now that if potential hearing loss is making you anxious, you have no business in the military, you are too timid and will die. You won't even make it through basic training because you won't have the mental toughness. Honestly, go be a librarian and save your hearing. I'm sorry if I'm coming across as a hardass, but for crying out loud, you're thinking about a career in a field where you will definitely have to put yourself in harms way and maybe have to kill people and you're worrying about your ears??? Get real.



As far as hearing loss goes the infantry is comparable to any other manual labor job. A lot of mechanized equipment etc.

If you get caught out in the open during an artillery strike the air pressure can rupture your eardrums ,as well as several other body parts, due to blast pressure.

You are more likely to suffer a hearing loss in artillery or armor then infantry.

Persistent small arms fire will damage your hearing over time. Rifle fire outdoors is not to bad. Indoors it is brutal on your hearing. Heavy machine gun or cannon fire is the one that will get your hearing.


I'm already in the military, having passed basic training, and am now in signals, though I am weighing the pros and cons of each trade.

This is just one of many issues I am weighing over in my mind.


Out of everything in the army hearing scares you the most? Quit while you're ahead. We don't want soldiers who are too afraid of firing guns because they might damage their hearing.

M4's aren't that loud anyways, man the fuck up.


It doesn't scare me the most. Barely scares me at all. Maybe anxious was the wrong word.

I'm joining infantry or combat engineers within the next month, just going over the pros and cons.

Nothing to get worked up about guys.


In non-combat situations, they're going to be up your butt all the time about earplugs, etc. Getting your Humvee hit by an IED is going to be far worse on your hearing. 5.56 isn't all that bad on the hearing on an intermittent basis. Ma-deuce is far worse, as are claymores, explosions in general. Constant machinery or engine sounds are a far greater risk, IMO.

In my experience, short periods of sharp sound are much easier on your hearing than sustained lower level sounds. You've been in a C-130, right? Imagine that a coupla days a week for ten years. Armor, artillery, mech infantry, machinery work are all worse than just being a grunt. Don't know your specific Signals MOS, but you could easily outdo a grunt in terms of hearing damage with satcom vans, cooling equipment, generators, etc.


Good god, yes! My sergeant said he was quitting and joining the Rangers, if only for a little peace and quiet.


Really guys, this hearing loss thing really isn't that big on my mind. I'm just doing a little final ruminating before putting in my transfer request.

Thanks for all the answers.


The more motivated the unit, the happier I was. It sorta depends on what kind of crowd you prefer...


First, whom ever made the comment about wanting to join the infantry (which in this day and age, is very likely going to morph into joining the combat infantry very early in everyone's career) and being worried about hearing loss and the primary concern...right on. From my experience (11B2P, CIB), yes, you are likely to have some hearing loss, just not from your M4. It is the other guys M4 (in things like CQB), or the MaDuece, or, even worse, being somewhere in front of a Bradley very shortly after some idiot decides to shoot an RPG at it, or being in a HMMWV when a bomb picks it up and spins it around. But the thing that you will, likely, notice more then hearing loss is the nice, permanent whine in your ears that comes out when ever things around you get nice and quiet. However, if you are worried about something like combat's effect on your hearing, you should REALLY be worried about combat's effect on your ankles/knees/hips/back/shoulders not to mention its effect on your emotional well-being. Oh yeah, the Army now issues combat earplugs and the 1st Cav (with which I served) had some high level staff officers that liked to insist on PSG harping about their use. Great, until in combination of the environment (dust, sweat, etc) and the earplugs lead to a very uncomfortable situation known as impacted cerumen. That, and the additional anxiety caused by intentionally dulling one of one's senses. Sorry for the rant, that was just not a good/useful question.


My dad lost a lot of his hearing, likely due to a few years as an artilley officer.


I have been in tanks for 8 years in the Marines. My hearing is terrible, which is nice because I can't hear my wife, boss, or co-workers complain about stuff. My wife's voice falls right into the mid-range frequencies that were damaged, the angrier she gets, the higher her voice goes and the less I hear. Sometimes it is nice to be partially deaf. Good luck young soldier!


If you want to be dismount infantry, make sure that you request for a duty station that actually has that. If you end up in a heavy/mech division, the only walking you are going to do is walking toward a Bradley. It still isn't all that quiet, because some retard will likely be screaming at your ass all fucking day anyway, which could make you wish you were totally deaf.

As far as hearing goes, everyone else pretty much covered it all in terms of weapons, machinery, etc. You used to be able to get lots of peace and quiet before the war on terror, because we were training in the cold-war era of doctrine but now that obviously isn't the case and tactical silence isn't used anymore. You will, like most of us, suffer some form of hearing damage. When I was infantry, I was a mortar gunner and lost a bit of my hearing across the spectrum of sound. A trip to Iraq screwed my low and high range freqs all to hell. A series of IEDs helped that along. That is just the way it is. Be warned


Yes you will loose hearing.
Yes it is worth it.
Be sure to volunteer for airborne and ranger.


I am glad that you brought up Ranger school. What benefit does it, really, have (other than another merit badge on your uniform). Granted, you do learn a broad range of skills, but in a terrible environment, both from a learning and retention aspect.

And, it is basically a squad leader's school, so why do all the damned LT's take up space in the school, which could be better spent teaching E4's and E5's how to better be E6's (assuming that it is a valid learning environment).

From my experience, tabbed SL's, PSG's and PL's don't perform any better in their job (many fall into lazy habits learned in school, like improper AtAiv call for fires).

Don't get me started on the ridiculous length of their opord's. I am not trying to come off as a hater here, I think that, in our day when (literally) EVERY 11B is going to get tested in combat (which is a whole hell of a lot tougher/more intense then anything that they throw at you in Ranger school, what does the school have to offer. Which show's you are more of a badass, and tab or a CIB? Plus, what 175#er really needs to lose 30?


Well, I've made my decision.

Thanks a lot for the info, guys.

Seriously, you guys took time out of your day to help a brother out. That's class.

I wish you all the best.


I wasn't talking about the school. I was talking about ranger battalion.