A couple of years ago on a trek through Vietnam, I chanced upon a firing range where for a buck a bullet, you could fire a Marine-issued M-16 just like the grunts used in the war. Same thing for a recent issue AK-47. My big takeaway from my brief one-sided firefight was that these guns are LOUD. VERY, VERY LOUD. Any soldier firing these things on a regular basis had to suffer hearing loss, right? Yep.
According to this article at New Republic, the biggest disability among vets isn’t PTSD but hearing loss.
William Milzarski was 40 years old when he finished his infantry training. His two sons had enlisted, and he felt a midlife crisis coming on. “It was either enlist, or buy a red convertible,” he says. Shipped off to Afghanistan, Lt. Milzarski led his platoon into 244 combat missions, until a bullet ricocheted off a rock during a firefight and hit him in the face. He stayed with his troops, wounded and bloody, until the battle was over. Then, seven months later, he rotated home.
The wound healed, the scar covered by the stubble of his beard. It was another three years, however, before he realized that the distance he felt from everyone and everything was not simply a symptom of PTSD. He was also going deaf—his hearing yet another casualty of war.