Veterans – especially those who’ve served in conflict zones – have significantly higher rates of hearing loss than the public. Seeing as 20% of the general public in the US has some form of hearing loss, the rates among veterans are disturbingly high. Among troops who’ve been in Iraq and Afghanistan, the most frequent service-related disabilities are hearing loss and tinnitus.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 adds up to a severe public health concern that is expected to worsen. As these veterans get older, normal age-related hearing loss will be compounded on top of their noise-induced 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. On top of that, many veterans have suffered profound levels of hearing loss and deafness. Why are so many military personnel suffering hearing loss? The complete answer is complicated, but the simple answer provided by 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. 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. These safety measures are used consistently in training, but are a secondary concern in actual battle. When faced with bullets flying, IEDs and mortars exploding, the soldier isn’t going to turn back for ear plugs. It is worth noting that a soldier wearing ear plugs may not be able to hear whispered instructions or may miss clues about the enemies whereabouts.

The military is doing what it can to increase the use of hearing protection by providing more sensitive earplugs that block loud noises but allow soldiers to hear even the faintest normal conversations. Meanwhile, the VA has become the largest single consumer of hearing aids in the U.S., providing them to veterans who need them at little or no cost. 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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