Veterans who have served in combat zones, after exposure to noise, often suffer from some form of a noise-induced hearing loss. This is due to the loud decibels of noises heard in a war zone. More than 2.7 million receive compensation for loss of hearing or tinnitus (also known as ringing in the ears). It is also a fact that many veterans often have a normal score on a hearing test although they have difficulty in understanding speech. This is called auditory processing disorder. This can be associated with blast exposure.
Audiology and Veterans
It has only been in more recent times that veterans have received consideration for their loss of hearing. Decibels of war caused the consequences. This started in 1992 when the National Institutes of Health (NIH) started to support the development of advanced hearing aids. It wasn’t until the turn of the century that different types of hearing aids were determined to offer major improvements for users.
Men and women returning from combat zones, after exposure to noise without having proper hearing protection contributed to their issues. The field of audiology was expanded greatly following World War II, when the soldiers returned from battle and many suffered from noise-hearing loss. Repeated noises from aircraft, gunfire, heavy equipment, and roadside bombs all contributed to their disability.
There are many misconceptions about veterans and their medical issues. Some people believe that missing limbs, post-traumatic stress disorder, or traumatic brain injury are the major service-related medical issues the soldiers suffer from when they return home. However, the major issue is a hearing injury. Many of these soldiers suffer from untreated hearing loss.
Veterans, opposed to nonveterans, are 30 percent more likely to have a severe hearing impairment. Soldiers who served after September 2001 are four times more likely. This number continues to grow. In 2016, veterans diagnosed with tinnitus numbered 190,000 while 103,000 were determined to have a loss of hearing according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This untreated hearing loss can cause lifelong issues.
Fortunately, those serving in the armed forces today have hearing protection. It is now standard issue and all active-duty service members are required to wear the protection. This has proven to be very beneficial to prevent noise-induced hearing loss.
VA Services for Hearing Loss
Veterans should make an appointment to visit a VA hospital if they believe they suffer from a loss of hearing. This is a permanent condition but there are ways to help improve the condition ranging from hearing aids to surgery. One issue associated with this disability is Conductive. This is a result of damage to the eardrum and middle ear structures. This can often be reversed or improved through medication or surgery. Another type is Sensorineural. This results from damage to the inner ear and the auditory nerve. This is a permanent condition. However, it can be helped by using hearing aids.
Mixed hearing loss is when there is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. The fourth type is auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder. In this condition sound normally enters the ear; however, because of damage in the inner ear or the hearing nerve, the brain cannot understand due to the way the sound is organized.
The VA awards disability after various considerations. Not all veterans receive the same amount of money. This is because there are four different degrees of a loss of hearing. The first is mild hearing impairment. In this situation a person may hear some speech sounds, however, soft sounds are difficult to hear. The second is moderate hearing loss. This results in the person almost not hearing any speech when another person is speaking at a normal level. Third, is severe loss of hearing. This finds the person not hearing any speech when another person speaks at a normal level and only some loud sounds are heard. Finally, the fourth is a profound loss of hearing. The person does not hear any speech and only very loud sounds.
A veteran, like all people with a hearing or tinnitus, suffers an emotional toll. This can result in frustration, depression, and social isolation. It can result in harming social relationships. Before a veteran reaches this point s/he should register with the health administration/enrollment section of their local VA medical center. This registration can be done in person, online, or by mail. Next, a request should be made for a referral to an audiology and Speech Pathology Clinic. This will be the first step in helping you to hearing and offering you a better life you deserve.
Southeast Medical Hearing
At Southeast Medical Hearing, we salute the brave people who have served our country! If you’ve noticed changes in your hearing and struggle with communication, contact us today. We provide comprehensive hearing health services and we’re here to help!