Current research on blast and other injuries sustained by United States Service members and Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars reveals a multitude of auditory complaints linked to exposures experienced during these conflicts. Among these complaints is decreased sound tolerance, which refers to a class of auditory-related problems including physical and/or psychological reactions to aspects of everyday sounds. Limited attention has been given to the possible relationship between blast exposure and decreased sound tolerance in Service members and Veterans, which is the purpose of this report. Baseline data were gathered and analyzed from 426 Service members (n = 181) and Veterans (n = 245) who participated in the Noise Outcomes in Servicemembers Epidemiology (NOISE) Study. Logistic regression analyses were performed to generate odds ratios (ORs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for each group, adjusted for age and sex. Of those who reported blast exposure, 33% of Service members (adjusted OR = 1.4; CI = 0.7–2.8) and 48% of Veterans (adjusted OR = 1.9; CI = 1.1–3.3) reported decreased sound tolerance. Among Service members and Veterans who did not report blast exposure, 28% and 34% respectively, also reported decreased sound tolerance. Overall, blast exposure increased the likelihood of participants reporting decreased sound tolerance. The strength of this association was significant in Veterans.
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