Linking Lack of Ear Plug Use & Hearing Loss in Military Personnel

Research Paper Title

Associations between earplug use and hearing loss in ROK military personnel.

Background

The easiest way to prevent noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is to wear earplugs.

The Republic of Korea (ROK) Ministry of National Defense (MND) is supplying earplugs to prevent NIHL, but many patients still suffer from this.

The researchers speculated that earplugs would have a high NIHL rate, depending on the rate of use of earplugs, regardless of the rate of supply. Therefore, they conducted this study to investigate the relationship between the use of earplugs and hearing loss by ROK military personnel.

Methods

The study used data from the Military Health Survey conducted in 2014-2015, which included 13 470 questionnaires completed by ROK military personnel.

Hearing loss and earplug use were self-reported. Logistic regression analysis was used to assess associations between earplug use and hearing loss.

Results

The study sample included 13 470 ROK military personnel (response rate of 71.2%) (Army, 8330 (61.8%); Navy/Marines, 2236 (16.6%); and Air Force, 2904 (21.6%)).

Overall, 18.8% of Korean military personnel reported that they always wore earplugs, and 2.8% reported hearing loss. In logistic regression analysis, there were significant differences in the rates of hearing loss associated with wearing earplugs sometimes (OR=1.48, 95% CI 1.07 to 2.05) and never wearing earplugs (OR=1.53, 95% CI 1.12 to 2.10).

In subgroup analysis, in Air Force, non-combat branch, forward area and long-term military service personnel increased hearing loss was associated with not wearing earplugs.

Conclusion

The study confirmed that within the ROK military, there is an association between hearing loss and lack of earplug use.

In the ROK MND, Army, Navy/Marines and Air Force headquarters must provide guidelines for the use of earplugs during field training to protect military personnel’s hearings and, if necessary, need to be regulated or institutionalised.

Reference

Kim, H.J., Oh, S.Y., Won, S.Y., Kim., H.J., Kim, T.K., Ko, B.C., Woo, S.Y. & Park, E-C. (2020) Associations between earplug use and hearing loss in ROK military personnel. BMJ Military Health. doi: 10.1136/jramc-2019-001378. Online ahead of print.

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