The effects of repeated low-level blast exposure on hearing in marines

Lina R. Kubli*, Robin L. Pinto, Holly L. Burrows, Philip D. Littlefield, Douglas S. Brungart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: The study evaluates a group of Military Service Members specialized in blast explosive training called 'Breachers' who are routinely exposed to multiple low-level blasts while teaching breaching at the U.S. Marine Corps in Quantico Virginia. The objective of this study was to determine if there are any acute or long-term auditory changes due to repeated low-level blast exposures used in training. The performance of the instructor group 'Breachers' was compared to a control group, 'Engineers'. Methods: A total of 11 Breachers and four engineers were evaluated in the study. The participants received comprehensive auditory tests, including pure-tone testing, speech-in-noise (SIN) measures, and central auditory behavioral and objective tests using early and late (P300) auditory evoked potentials over a period of 17 months. They also received shorter assessments immediately following the blast-exposure onsite at Quantico. Results: No acute or longitudinal effects were identified. However, there were some interesting baseline effects found in both groups. Contrary to the expected, the onsite hearing thresholds and distortion product otoacoustic emissions were slightly better at a few frequencies immediately after blast-exposure than measurements obtained with the same equipment weeks to months after each blast-exposure. Conclusions: To date, the current study is the most comprehensive study that evaluates the long-term effects of blast-exposure on hearing. Despite extensive testing to assess changes, the findings of this study suggest that the levels of current exposures used in this military training environment do not seem to have an obvious deleterious effect on hearing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-238
Number of pages12
JournalNoise and Health
Issue number90
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Head trauma
  • military injury
  • peripheral nerve injury
  • traumatic brain injury


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