HEARING TIPS

Afghanistan and Iraq Veterans Affected by Hearing Loss and Tinnitus in Record Numbers

An estimated 20 percent of all Americans have experienced some level of hearing loss, but there is one particular portion of the population in which that number is significantly higher – veterans, particularly those who’ve served in war zones. Among troops who have been in Iraq and Afghanistan, the most common service-related disabilities 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. 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.” In the Navy, most sailors work below decks in high-noise environments, 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. Of course, in a war zone this background noise is often punctuated by the sounds of gunfire and explosions, creating pretty much an ideal environment for creating hearing loss. Many efforts are made to reduce the risk and exposure. The US military provides hearing protection and noise-reducing ear plugs. 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 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.

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