At the onset of writing this blog post, I came across this interesting article in the Washington Post, mentioning that loss of hearing is an inevitable cost of war. Soldiers think that it is a small price to pay when compared with the loss of appendages, PTSD or death.
Well, this is not true!
Military hearing loss is debilitating and severely affects the quality of life of both the sufferer and the people around them. Furthermore, veterans may also suffer from tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Hearing loss due to military service can induce a lifetime of suffering, whether tinnitus or hearing damage. Hearing loss as a military disability is even considered in lawsuits brought by several veterans.
It takes 7 years to seek help
Incredibly, the average time between someone noticing hearing damage and getting help for it is 7 years. Soldiers do not seek help for various reasons and choose to live with the problem, rather than getting help.
Exposure to blasts affects central auditory processing
Studies (Theodoroff et al 2015) show that the nature of auditory complaints by blast-exposed military personnel appears to be different from those not affected by blasts. This is because blasts damage neural structures (including the auditory cortex, corpus callosum, and other neuronal pathways) causing CAPD (central auditory processing deficits) without necessarily damaging the eardrum.
Doctors know that an individual with traumatic brain injuries would have very complex issues. More often, a comprehensive audiological evaluation is delayed or not carried out because the life-threatening concerns are addressed first. This leads to treatment delay.
Assessment is difficult because, in case of a traumatic brain injury, there are other issues such as motivation, attention, cooperation, cognition, neuronal loss, noise toxicity, metabolic and circulatory changes.
Treatment options for military personnel are multidisciplinary and any solution mentioned here in this article would sound very simplistic and straightforward. Military personnel, are not only affected physically but also mentally. They undergo various tests and therapies depending on the trauma they were exposed to.
In situations where hearing loss and tinnitus both exist, amplification using hearing aids are beneficial. It would help with improved communication as well as reduce tinnitus-related problems.
Personalized tinnitus management programs are very useful and should be considered. Scientists believe there is a correlation between depression, anxiety, and insomnia and the severity of tinnitus. Tinnitus therapies combined with antidepressants have helped some veterans who are chronic sufferers of tinnitus.
Hearing damage for military veterans is more common than you might think. If you've served in the military, know that we appreciate your service, and would be honored to serve you in treating your hearing loss and/or tinnitus.
Please contact us at the Tinnitus & Hearing Center of Arizona and set up an appointment either online via Skype or in our Tempe, Arizona clinic to discuss your treatment options. (480) 831-6159.
Dr. Rohe is a nationally-recognized audiologist specializing in Tinnitus Therapy and other hearing conditions.