Hundreds of soldiers are returning from Afghanistan suffering from severe and permanent damage to their hearing because of the overwhelming noise of intense combat.
Nearly one in ten soldiers serving with one regiment have hearing defects that could bar them from further frontline service and affect their civilian job prospects, The Times has learnt.
The number of hearing injuries is one of the untold stories of Britain’s military campaigns, evoking comparisons with the thunder of battle in the two world wars and the Korean War.
Many of the soldiers involved in the most violent clashes with Shia militias in Iraq in 2004 and 2005 also returned with permanent hearing impairment. But in Afghanistan roadside bombs, ferocious close-combat clashes with the Taleban and 500lb bombs dropped by coalition aircraft have burst eardrums, caused tinnitus and, in some cases, resulted in total deafness.