Can you Join the Military if You’re Deaf?

When you decide to join the military, the process is far different than applying for a normal job. You may not qualify, as not everybody is fit for military service. Military recruitingen is a much different process and requires certain standards before you can be fully considered.

While congress and the courts stick to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which provides equal treatment for civilian employment, this doesn’t apply to the military. The military is different and doesn’t take just anybody looking to join.

Joining the military requires many different qualifications to be med including age, medical, height/weight, citizenship, drug history, education and more. When you fail to meet any of these qualifications, you may not be able to join the military.

For those hard of hearing or deaf, the requirement that could keep you from joining the military falls under the medical category. If you meet all other requirements, this could be the one that keeps you from joining the branch of military you prefer.

Hearing Requirements for Military Service

The hearing requirements for military service are pretty straight-forward. You may be rejected if you have hearing loss as stated here:

The cause for rejection for appointment and military enlistment is a hearing loss greater than: Pure tone threshold average (of 500, 1000, and 2000 Hz) not more than 30 dB (each ear), with no individual level greater than 35dB at these frequencies.

Pure tone thresholds not more than 45 dB at 3000 Hz and 55 dB at 4000 Hz (each ear). Taken from the generalized hearing standards used by MEPS physicians.

While this is the requirement, there are many fighting for deaf people to be able to join the military. The Air Force introduced a new bill in 2014 that would allow deaf individuals to join the military as a part of the demonstration program or as a part of a pilot program. The goal was for this bill to expand to other branches, as well.

Keith Nolan has been fighting to get the deaf into the military, as well. He’s a teacher at the Maryland School of the Daft and has been working with Dave Alexander to help persuade the Department of Defense to create a pilot program for 15 to 20 deaf candidates with a range of hearing loss. This program would train the individuals to become Air Force officers.

There is a possibility for this program to be considered in the 2018 military budget. Nolan and Alexander have been working on this for the past five years and have met with the White house many times. They have even met with Congress over 100 times.

Deaf Military Program Not Feasible Yet

Part of the issue with allowing deaf to join the military isn’t the fault of the individuals. Nolan believes deaf individuals joining the military can help with cybersecurity and in other areas. However, the feasibility report states that all service members must be deployable at any time, regardless of the position they hold. This means, there are no non-deployable occupations in the military.

Another issue with feasibility for deaf military recruiting is the equipment used by the military. It’s not set up for deaf individuals to properly utilize it, but accommodations could possibly be made. The report also stated that while it’s possible to create non-deployable pools of personnel, it would have an impact on forces that would be significant.

When military service members cannot be deployed, replacements must be found, which delays the process and creates more work.

Nolan tried to enlist in the Navy as a deaf man and was not allowed. However, he was able to participate in the ROTC pogrom at California State University up to the third level. He wasn’t able to complete ROTC and go into the military because at the third level a hearing test is required.

However, those joining the military and losing their hearing during service are allowed to use hearing aids and serve. Those trying to join and already using hearing aids, don’t qualify, however.

While there may be a possibility of the deaf joining the military in the future, as of right now, it’s not possible. Those not meeting the medical standards are not allowed to join and with new policies in place to boost the number of deployable troops, it’s not likely the deaf will be able to join until they can be deployable.

Nolan and Alexander are still working on getting a demonstration program approved, which could help push the issue forward. News of this program may be released later this year, but it may be many years before the deaf can join the military, if these individuals are ever allowed in.




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