Hearing Loss For Military Veterans Is Common
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.
- Almost every soldier, sailor, marine and any other member of the armed force are exposed to hazardous noise levels at some point in their career. Estimates show that more than 2.6 million US military personnel have been engaged in combat in the last decade.
- The CDC (Center for Disease Control) estimates that an astounding 414,000 veterans have returned home with mild to severe tinnitus or hearing loss after 2001.
- A paper by Yong and Wang published in 2015, reported that the prevalence of hearing impairment in the military population is far greater than in the general public.
- In 2012, the two most prevalent disabilities for veterans in the United States are tinnitus and hearing loss, with tinnitus affecting 115,638 veterans (9.7%) and hearing loss affecting 69,326 veterans (5.8%).
- Another study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, in 2011, observed that 16.4 -26.6 % of men and 7.3 – 13.4 % women in military service suffer from serious hearing loss and tinnitus.
- A 2015 study by Theodoroff, reported that tinnitus, noise-induced hearing loss, and central auditory dysfunction in veterans are categorized under secondary injuries. These injuries are not routinely evaluated and not properly funded.
- A military environment is very noisy. Not a basic humdrum but unbelievably loud noises. Sounds such as the engines of ships, planes, helicopters and tanks and general military and combat noise is enough to cause severe tinnitus and loss of hearing.
- Severe hearing loss is caused by bomb detonations, improvised explosive devices, and loud weapons. For example, the crack of a standard M16A2 rifle is 152 decibels, which might be enough to cause irreparable damage.
- Training exercises with machine guns, artillery, explosives, are all very loud noises.
- Field generators and powerful “bunker-buster” bombs are louder.
- New technology has enabled larger and louder weapons than before and therefore the incidence of hearing impairment is probably rising each year.
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.