“Veteran

The men and women who serve our country in uniform too frequently endure debilitating mental, physical, and emotional challenges after their service is finished. Within the continuing dialogue concerning veteran’s healthcare, the most commonly diagnosed disability is often relatively ignored: Hearing loss and tinnitus.

Veterans are 30% more likely than civilians to deal with significant hearing impairment, even when age and occupation are taken into account. Hearing loss, linked to military service, has been documented at least back to the second world war, but it’s far more prevalent in veterans who have served more recently. Recent veterans, who are also, typically, among the youngest former service members, are four times more likely than non-veterans to suffer from severe hearing impairment.

Why Are Veterans at Greater Risk For Hearing Loss?

The answer is simple: Noise exposure. Certainly, some vocations are louder than others. Librarians, for instance, are usually in a more quiet environment. The volume of sound that they would usually be exposed to would be from 30dB (a whisper) to 60 dB (normal conversation).

For civilians who are at the other end of the sonic scale, such as a city construction worker, the hazard increases. Sounds you’d continuously hear (heavy traffic, around 85 dB) or sporadically (an ambulance siren’s around 120 dB) are at hazardous levels, and that’s only background noise. Research has found that construction equipment noise, anything from power tools to bulldozers, exposes laborers to sounds louder than 85 dB.

As loud as a heavy construction site is, active military personnel are regularly subjected to much louder noises. This is definitely true in combat areas, where troops hear sounds like gunfire (150 dB), hand grenades (158 dBA), and artillery (180 dB). And it isn’t quiet at military bases either. On the deck of an aircraft carrier, sound levels can range from 130-160 dB; engine rooms might be inside (and no jets), but they’re still very loud. Noise levels for pilots are high as well, with choppers on the low end (around 95-100 dB) and the majority of jets and other aircraft going above 100 dB. Another worry: Certain jet fuels, according to one study, disrupt the auditory process causing hearing impairment.

Our service men and women don’t have the choice of opting out, as a 2015 study clearly demonstrates. So that they can complete a mission or perform daily activities, they have to deal with noise exposure. And even though hearing protection is standard issue, many of the sounds just discussed are so loud that even the best-performing hearing protection isn’t enough.

What Can Veterans do to Deal With Hearing Loss?

Noise induced hearing loss can be alleviated with hearing aids even though it can’t be cured. The most prevalent type of hearing loss among veterans is a weakened ability to hear high-frequency sounds, but this kind of hearing loss can be remedied with specialized hearing aids. Tinnitus is often a symptom of another health issue and though it can’t be cured, there are also treatment solutions for it.

In serving our country, veterans have already made lots of sacrifices. They shouldn’t have to sacrifice their hearing too.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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