Veterans Suffer from Hearing Loss and Tinnitus by the Millions
Veterans – particularly those who’ve served in war zones – have considerably higher rates of hearing loss than the general public. Seeing as 20 percent of the public in the US has some level of hearing loss, the rates among veterans are disturbingly high. The most frequent service-related disabilities among soldiers that served in Iraq and Afghanistan are hearing loss and tinnitus. In 2011, over 800,000 veterans received disability benefits; of those, 18% received these benefits as the result of tinnitus or hearing loss, compared with 5.3% who received similar benefits as the result of suffering PTSD.
The result is a public health problem of the highest order, one that cannot help but get worse in the future, as the noise-induced hearing loss experienced by these soldiers gets worse as a result of normal age-related hearing loss. The tinnitus component is often worse because of the side effects. The constant ringing in the ears is know to lead to headaches, mood changes, anxiety, insomnia, vision changes and depression. Add to this the number of veterans who have experienced more profound levels of hearing loss or deafness, and you have an enormous problem.
The reason that there is so much hearing loss in the military, according to VA-accredited claims agent Brett Buchanan, is that “The military, in general, is just a high noise-producing environment.” In the Navy, most sailors work below decks in high-noise environments, filled with “the constant drumming of engines and metal-on-metal noise.” In the Army or Marines, soldiers spend most of their day inside or near noisy vehicles such as tanks or transport carriers. Now add to the ever-present high volumes of background noise the intermittent sounds of gunfire and explosions, and you have a recipe for hearing loss.
The U.S. military, to its credit, tries to do what it can to prevent hearing loss by providing soldiers with hearing protection in the form of noise-reducing earplugs. These safety measures are used consistently in training, but are a secondary concern in actual battle. When faced with bullets flying, IEDs and mortars exploding, the soldier isn’t going to turn back for ear plugs. It is worth noting that a soldier wearing ear plugs may not be able to hear whispered instructions or may miss clues about the enemies whereabouts.
The military has been working on ear plugs that cancel the loudest noises, while allowing hushed conversations. Meanwhile, the VA has become the largest single consumer of hearing aids in the U.S., providing them to veterans who need them at little or no cost. So if you are a military veteran who has experienced some form of hearing loss, contact us for an accurate diagnosis of the nature of your hearing problem. We can recommend the best hearing aid to solve the problem, and help you work with the VA to obtain them at the lowest cost to you possible.