HEARING LOSS AMONG VETERANS

Military veterans are disproportionately affected by tinnitus and hearing loss. In fact, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), tinnitus and hearing loss are the number one and number two conditions that people visit their centers to seek help with. 

Recent data shows that annually, around 1.8 million veterans receive disability compensation because of tinnitus and 1.16 million due to hearing loss. Additionally, many Veterans suffer from central auditory processing disorder (CAPD) a condition that is often a consequence of exposure to loud blasts. People who suffer from it struggle to understand speech even though they score normally on hearing tests. Hearing damage is such a widespread problem among veterans that the VA purchases one out of every five hearing aids sold in the U.S. 

The VA’s data also shows the staggering costs of hearing loss’s unfortunate side effects. A 2015 study of veterans with tinnitus found that 72% were also diagnosed with anxiety; 60% with depression; and 58% had both anxiety and depression. Exposure to a single blast frequently injures both the structural and functional integrity of the central auditory nervous system pathway at every level, up to and including the brain tissue itself. We can see how this impacts the lives of veterans moving on to civilian life after their service is complete. Tinnitus and hearing loss, without proper treatment, will seriously disrupt every aspect of one’s life: from physical and psychological wellness to social interactions, and work performance. 

 

PREVENTION 

Taking the appropriate safety precautions is simple and doing so with discipline makes hearing damage very preventable. Hearing protective devices (HPDs) that fit properly and are worn consistently will go a long way in protecting against tinnitus and hearing loss. With the steady and ever-accelerating technological advancements of today’s military, communication between soldiers does not need to be compromised. 

Traditional earplugs simply block hazardous sound levels from entering the ear canal. While protecting a soldier’s hearing, they could also impede necessary communication and the sharp awareness of one’s environment in potentially dangerous settings. But level-dependent earplugs allow noise at soft levels to be heard at their full volume while protecting against high-frequency or impulse noises. They are worn along with other protective devices when operating combat vehicles and aircraft. 

Earmuffs create an airtight barrier around one’s entire ear and are most commonly and effectively used for intermittent noise exposure.  Along with protection they also provide greater durability, warmth, and comfort than earplugs. While it is true that the classic earmuffs also blocked out quieter sounds such as speech, the modern models out often have electronic communications systems embedded within them to facilitate clear communication. 

Helmets that protect against crash impacts and eye injury also have noise attenuating technology that protects against hearing damage while also facilitating radio communication. The technology cancels unwanted noise but preserves verbal communication.

 

TREATMENT

Imagine the risks, not from just explosions on a battlefield, but the years of regular exposure to the dangerous volumes of aircraft engines revving up for takeoff. Some aircraft engines whir up into a high-pitched whine. The brute force that their blades depend on makes helicopters especially dangerous. 

When several engines are roaring at once, their volumes compound, posing a risk to all the support staff present on an airfield. Volumes could occasionally exceed the levels at which earplugs were even designed to make a difference. Repetitive gunfire at training exercises is another common problem. 

Many young men are likely to be nonchalant when it dawns on them that they might have hearing loss around the age of 25. Especially the young people who have no intention of pursuing a military career, frequently do not want to complain about injuries. But a cavalier attitude is not a treatment and it is not a plan.

Upon returning to civilian life many veterans found sleeping to be a problem due to tinnitus. Many keep talk radio on overnight, using the murmur of quiet chatter to drown out the ringing. Others use air-conditioning, fans, or white noise machines to achieve the same ends. 

Researchers are making great advances every day in the development of a tinnitus cure, but no true cure currently exists. Treatment means relieving the symptoms to improve the psychological, emotional, and mental stresses of tinnitus by diminishing the perception of the sound. Like taking an aspirin for a headache, the treatments reduce the feelings of stress, and anxiety that the condition causes.

Make an appointment with one of our specialists today to come in and determine what options might work best for your unique situation. Your connection with yourself and your loved ones will rush back in. Your world can expand and deep into new dimensions when you take decisive action.