On Hearing Loss and Military Service: 5 Astonishing Facts

Missing appendages, post-traumatic stress, and brain trauma: These are what many people think of when they think about post-combat injuries. What many often don’t consider is hearing loss as a severe combat injury. These 5 facts about veterans and hearing loss may surprise you.

  1. The number one injury soldiers suffer from combat is loss of hearing. Hearing loss beats out PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) as the number one service-connected disability. Severe hearing loss is commonly caused by bomb detonations and general military and combat noise. Improvised explosive devices, loud weapons, and other sounds such as the engines of ships, planes, and tanks can cause tinnitus and temporary to permanent loss of hearing. Veterans of the post-9/11 conflicts are the most affected population in terms of hearing loss. An astounding 414,000 veterans serving post-9/11 have returned home with mild to severe tinnitus or hearing loss.
  2. Veterans have been found to be more susceptible to loss of hearing than those who haven’t served in the military. – The CDC (Center for Disease Control) estimates that soldiers are 30 percent more likely to lose their hearing than civilians. Additionally, post-911 soldiers were actually four times more likely to lose their hearing than civilians.
  3. Hearing loss may be more prevalent now than it was for soldiers in the past. – Larger and louder weapons technology very likely contributes to higher numbers of veterans with hearing loss. Field generators and powerful “bunker buster” bombs are extremely loud and dangerous to the ears. Even helicopters can cause loss of hearing.
  4. Unfortunately, many of the soldiers who come home with loss of hearing do not seek help. – According to experts, many soldiers with hearing loss or tinnitus choose to live with the problem, rather than getting help. Incredibly, the average time between someone noticing hearing damage and getting help for it is 7 years.
  5. Breakthroughs in neuroscience may help those who suffer severe tinnitus. – While there is no cure for tinnitus, some scientists believe there is a correlation between serotonin depletion (which can lead to depression, anxiety, and insomnia) and the severity of tinnitus. Tinnitus therapies combined with antidepressants have aided some veterans who are chronic sufferers of tinnitus.