Claims by members of Ireland's defence forces that shooting and explosions damaged their hearing will cost taxpayers about 290 million euros (410 million dollars), the defence ministry said Saturday.
Claims have been received from 16,791 serving and retired members of the army, air corps and naval service. The claims have come from all ranks from privates to generals.
The servicemen claim they were deafened by the noise of gunfire and explosions while training on firing ranges because defence force bosses failed to supply them with adequate ear protection.
Minister Willie O'Dea said 15,887 claims have been dealt with so far with 284.8 million euros paid out for hearing loss claims, including 97.7 million euros in legal costs.
In reply to a written parliamentary question published on the defence ministry website, O'Dea said the State Claims Agency estimates it will cost another five million euros to deal with the remaining claims.
In the late 1990s, up to 80 percent of those in some barracks around the country were claiming hearing loss.
At one stage officials feared the final bill could be over one billion euros.
When the claims first began to be lodged, the ministry faced a fundamental problem of objectively assessing the disability suffered by servicemen which made it difficult to identify exaggerated claims in the courts.
O'Dea also revealed that a further 45 million has been paid out to defence forces personnel in other compensation cases since 2000.