Hearing loss remains a significant threat to Marines, both during and after their military careers.

In January, leaders in hearing conservation from across the Defense Department met for a focus group aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, to attack the issue. They reviewed technologies, policies and how to get the word out to Marines.

“Noise-induced hearing loss is completely preventable, and we can do better at every level to reduce it,” said hearing conservation program manager Dr. Jolene Mancini, an audiologist at Naval Health Clinic Quantico. “Improvements can be made in all areas, but probably the most effective is also the simplest and lowest-tech solution — education.”

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Damage to your health

Permanent hearing loss can result not just from one-time exposure to a loud noise, but from prolonged exposure to lower noises.

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Continuous exposure to impulse noise 95 decibels or below — a lawn mower, for example — can lead to permanent side effects.

“Hearing loss is the obvious one, but many other aspects of your health can be affected,” Mancini said. “Noise exposure has been associated with high blood pressure, sleep disturbance, increased stress and many other non-auditory effects.”

2. Who’s affected

Every Marine has been exposed to hazardous noise at some point in his or her career, according to Mancini.

Exact statistics are not available, she said, but the results of not having or using the right hearing protection are significant.

“Hearing loss and tinnitus are the most commonly reported service-connected disabilities to the VA, and over $1 billion is paid annually to veterans for compensation,” she said.

Read more at Marine Corps Times