Does Combat Hearing Preservation Equipment Affect Balance?

Mil Med. 2017 Mar;182(S1):230-233. doi: 10.7205/MILMED-D-16-00043.


Objectives: (1) To investigate whether the occlusion effect and hearing attenuation produced by 3M Combat Arms Ear Plugs (CAEP) affects balance when compared to no hearing protection and (2) to investigate whether the occlusion effect and noise-canceling capabilities of the Nacre QuietPro system affects balance when compared to no hearing protection.

Methods: This prospective study collected pilot data for investigation of mechanisms of balance. 20 subjects with normal hearing and no vestibular dysfunction were tested with blackened goggles in three conditions-no hearing protection, CAEP, and with the Nacre QuietPro.

Results: A static posturogrpahy forceplate was used to measure center of gravity angular acceleration for a period of 20 seconds. The order of the conditions tested was randomized for each individual. Mean angular acceleration and standard deviation (degrees/second) of the three conditions were: (1) no hearing protection (control), 0.65 + 0.19, (2) CAEP, 0.69 + 0.23, and (3) QuietPro, 0.70 + 0.20 (one-way analysis of variance [ANOVA], df = 2, F = 0.38, p = 0.706).

Conclusions: The components of an intact balance system include a variety of neural inputs, to include vesitbuloocular, vestibulospinal, and labyrinthine afferents. Both the CAEP and Nacre QuietPro are hearing preservation devices utilized during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Our pilot data show no decrement in balance with utilization of these combat hearing preservation devices.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Ear Protective Devices / adverse effects*
  • Ear Protective Devices / standards
  • Female
  • Hearing Loss, Noise-Induced / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Postural Balance / physiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Warfare