Military Service Resulting in Hearing Loss and Tinnitus – What Should We Do?

Approximately 20% of all Americans have some form of hearing loss, but there is one particular segment of the population in which that percentage is notably larger – veterans, particularly those who’ve served in foreign combat zones. Hearing loss and tinnitus are now the most common service-related disabilities among military personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of the over 800,000 veterans who received disability benefits that year, 148,000 (18.5%) received them for tinnitus or hearing loss; by comparison, the number receiving compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was 42,700 (5.3%).

This is a widespread public health problem that will only get worse in the future, as these veterans’ noise-induced hearing loss is compounded by aging. 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. But tinnitus is only part of the problem, because many veterans have experienced more profound hearing loss or deafness.

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.” For example, he describes the working and living conditions below deck on most Naval ships at filled with “the constant drumming of engines and metal-on-metal noise.” And in other branches of service such as the Army or Marines, solders often spend much of their time around or inside of incredibly noisy vehicles such as transport carriers or tanks. 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.

To their credit, the military does what it can to prevent noise-induced hearing loss, providing soldiers with earplugs and other forms of hearing protection. But, while these are fine on the target range while practicing, when bullets are actually blazing by and IEDs or mortars are exploding around them, no one stops to put in their earplugs.

Some of the problem may be solved in the future by providing more sensitive earplugs to soldiers that selectively block out loud sounds such as explosions or guns firing, but allow soldiers to hear even whispered commands. While better solutions are in the works, the Veteran’s Administration has become the largest buyer of hearing aids in the US. Hearing aids are provided at little or no cost to veterans who need them. So for veterans who are reading this and who may have experienced some form of hearing loss, please get in touch with us. Allow our trained professionals to help diagnose the nature of your hearing problems, recommend the best solutions to those problems, and help you work with the VA to obtain an effective hearing aid.

Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.