The Prevalence of Hearing Loss Among Veterans

Young Man With Earache, Otitis Or Tinnitus. Ear Inflammation. Ma

According to a new study, tinnitus and hearing loss are disproportionately common among veterans. The study, which was conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs, found that nearly one in four veterans suffers from tinnitus, and more than one in five has hearing loss.

These numbers are especially alarming when you consider the fact that many veterans are still young – the average age of participants in the study was just 49 years old. Tinnitus and hearing loss can have a significant impact on quality of life, so it’s important for veterans to be aware of these conditions and seek treatment if necessary. It is equally important for active duty members to be mindful of the risks and make an effort to utilize all available forms of protection.

Numbers from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA)

  • The top two health conditions affecting veterans at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers are tinnitus and hearing loss, with tinnitus holding the number one spot.
  • A staggering 1.79 million veterans received disability compensation for tinnitus in 2017, while the number of those receiving payment for hearing loss came up to 1.16 million.
  • Additionally, many veterans have been shown to exhibit symptoms of central auditory processing disorder (CAPD), which is linked to blast exposure. This population has difficulty comprehending speech, despite producing normal scores on hearing tests.
  • Statistics gathered from a 2015 study discovered that among the number of veterans afflicted by tinnitus, 72% were also diagnosed with anxiety. Additionally, 60% showed signs of depression, and 58% suffered from both conditions simultaneously.
  • In a 2010 government spending report, it was documented that the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs purchased one-fifth of all hearing aids sold in America at an average price of $348.15 per unit.

Protecting hearing with military-grade devices

With the appropriate fitting and consistent application of hearing protective devices (HPDs), hearing loss for military servicemen and women can be completely preventable.

Military personnel are commonly exposed to loud noise on a daily basis. Whether working on an airbase or being subject to situations involving explosive blasts and gunfire, the noise can take a toll on their hearing. Unfortunately, a popular misconception amongst service members is that combat readiness and critical transmissions are inhibited by HPDs, thereby decreasing the usage of hearing protection.

However, soldiers no longer need to choose between preserving their lives or their hearing with today’s state-of-the-art technologies. There are many different types of HPDs available now that are suited to all possible scenarios. By choosing the right kind of protection, soldiers can successfully maintain communication while also protecting their hearing.

Below are some military-grade HPD options that do not compromise safety in appropriate situations:

  • Earplugs: Traditional earplugs can be effective at blocking out dangerous levels of sound, but they can also make it difficult to hear speech or other low-level noises. Level-dependent earplugs are designed to address this problem by allowing soft sounds to be heard clearly while still blocking out high-frequency or impulse noise. These earplugs are highly portable and can be a valuable tool for hearing protection. However, when operating combat vehicles or aircraft, level-dependent earplugs should be used in tandem with other HPDs.
  • Earmuffs: Earmuffs are a type of HPD that helps to block out noise by creating an airtight seal around the entire ear, which prevents sound waves from entering the ear canal. Earmuffs are usually made from foam or other soft materials and can be worn for long periods without causing discomfort. While they are more durable than earplugs, they tend to block out softer sounds like speech. However, most military-grade earmuffs incorporate electronic communication systems that facilitate clear communication despite the noise-canceling effect.
  • Noise-attenuating helmets: Noise-attenuating helmets offer more protection than a standard helmet. In addition to blocking your ears from harmful noises, they also reduce the impact of a crash while providing a layer of protection for your eyes. Noise-attenuating helmets allow you to communicate more easily with others through radio communication. More advanced models integrate active noise-reducing technology, which selectively chooses which sounds to pass through in a given situation while preserving clarity in verbal transmissions.
  • Suppressors: In 2017, the U.S. Marines made the switch from traditional firearms to suppressed service weapons. While suppressors don’t completely eliminate noise, they can reduce gunfire sound by more than 30 decibels. This offers both tactical and medical advantages. For example, suppressors make it difficult for enemies to pinpoint the location of gunfire. In addition, the reduced noise levels help to protect the hearing of Marines in training and combat situations.

If you are a veteran and you have noticed any changes to your hearing or have experienced tinnitus, we are here to help. Please call and make an appointment today to discuss your treatment options.

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