Ammo and sound


Most of ammunition produces loud sound. When we shoot at ranges, we wear “ear muffs” to protect our hearing. I can attest to usefulness of that, once I fired a Mosin-Nagant carbine without any ear protection, but that’s another story. What is being used by soldiers now and what was done in previous wars (WWI, WWII, Korea, Afganistan, Nam etc.) to protect hearing?




I am not sure about “plugs now”, I see soldiers with microphone headsets on TV, if one ear is preoccupied with communication, the other ear is needed for ambient sound. But I am not in the field, so don’t know.




I can’t speak for the other services, but during my time in the U.S. Navy, aboard ship, ear muffs were unknown. Even the flight deck crew on aircraft carriers wore only a canvas or leather cap with ear flaps and a chin strap, but that was mostly protection from the wind. As Rick said, being aware of the sounds around you was usually preferred, and a lot safer.

Hearing loss was the single most common affliction of all veterans, probably equal to all others combined. You can always tell a veteran of bygone days - they are the ones whose first response to a question is, WHAT!!

Things are different today.


  • @ sksvlad: If today some hearing devices are used by soldiers in the field during a real combat action, I cannot understand how orders can be heard. Nobody in the Romanian army in 1970s had hearing devices. The noise from firing your 7.62mm AKM was no bother but the noise from the guy firing next to you could hurt (for the moment) your hearing. I used to keep my mouth a little open in order to avoid my ears to be hurt. Anyway, my hearing is excellent today and I usually can even hear things I should’n. Liviu 02/03/10


The obvious (if expensive) solution is those electronic earmuffs made for hunters which block loud noises like gunshots but magnify all others.


By the late 1970s hearing conservation became a big thing in the U.S. Navy, especially for engineering types down in the “holes” with big noisy boilers, blowers, pumps, turbines, generators, etc. Sound levels were checked and some spaces mandated "double hearing protection- both plugs and muffs.

I believe the weapons types, or at least the REAL gummer’s mates, the “round barrel” ones used hearing protection when firing big guns or small arms. The “square barrel” missile type gummers mates, I dont think any one ever saw them actually doing any work that would require hearing protection. All “secret” stuff, you know.

Small arms training always required hearing protection. Go topside, and someone would hand a sailor a rifle or pistol, help them load it (if needed) and they would blast away at the ocean. If they hit it, they were “qualified.”




The British Military has standard issue OD green ear muffs used anywhere loud noises are present (firing ranges, around aircraft etc). I have a pair of ex MoD ones at work that I use when I’m working with air powered tools. They are far better than the ones work provides.


The sound of your own gun largely misses you since it goes forward and sideways but heaing loss is a serious problem and it is recognised now so you will always see British soldiers on the range wearing ear protection. In combat it is a different matter and the senses need to have unhindered reception to all that is happening around you. Besides, it is a matter of balance, why worry about hearing loss in the future when your main priority is keeping your ears (and your butt) above ground.

My father suffered a perforated eardrum while serving on HMS Warspite during WW2 during the bombardment of the Italian coast prior to the landings at Salerno.


During my service in the USMC (1987-1993), ear plugs were mandatory on the firing range and around other loud noises, such as tank engines. When I went to war during Desert Storm in 1990-1991, hearing protection was the last thing on anyone’s mind… I have a 10% disability rating due to tinnitis/hearing loss as a result.

Fast forward to the Iraq War and one can read about soldiers being required to wear ear plugs while on combat patrol. Some do and some don’t… I guess the government finally figured out that they were paying Veterans a lot of money for hearing loss…



If you wear earplugs in combat, you cannot hear the gunshot that kills you. Mandating earplug usage to frontline troops would ensure a decrease in payouts to deaf veterans. Because they would have been killed due to suppressed situational awareness. A one finger salute to the yob that initiates that order.


SlickRick–Unless it is a REAL slow bullet, you can not ever hear the shot that kills you, ear plugs or not, assuming you are killed instantly. Almost all bullets are SUPERSONIC, so the bullet will hit you long before the sound arrives at your ear. But, that said, I still would not wear ear plugs in combat. Lots of other things to listen for besides gunshots.


I just returned from working with 2 Airborne brigades in Afghanistan. Ear protection is not worn in the field by the infantry. Earplugs are carried wherever you go to use on the range and when flying in helicopters. I never saw anyone in a Blackhawk or Chinook helicopter without their plugs on, unless they were wearing muffs connected to communications.



I think the Slickster was speaking metaphorically. Not being able to hear what’s going on around you can get you killed.