The #1 Combat Injury: Hearing Loss
The most common combat injury for military veterans is hearing loss. Often overshadowed by physical and mental health issues, let’s not forget their hearing.
Hearing Loss Among Military Veterans
60 percent of veterans who returned from Iraq and Afghanistan have hearing loss as a result of their time in combat. The cause is often constant or repeated loud sounds, or from a one-time loud event that can damage the hearing structures in the ears. Artillery fire and explosions are the most common causes of hearing loss amongst service men and women.
Tinnitus Plagues War Vets Too
Tinnitus is a ringing or buzzing sound in your ears with no known origin. If you can’t pinpoint where the sound is coming from, and if others can’t hear it, it’s tinnitus and the sound is coming from inside your own head. Sometimes tinnitus is temporary, and may last only a day or two. But because of how loud sounds in combat can be, many veterans will live with tinnitus for their whole lives.
An Audiologist Can Help
There is no cure for tinnitus, but an audiologist can recommend treatment options to diminish the sound of the ringing. Since 90% of people with tinnitus also have hearing loss, having tinnitus may also indicate hearing loss, so if you know a veteran who hears a constant ringing in their ears, encourage them to see an audiologist as soon as possible to diagnose and treat any hearing impairment. Hearing aids are usually covered by veteran’s benefits, and a good audiologist will help you with the paperwork.
Hearing Health And Mental Health
Studies show that 60 percent of people who suffer from tinnitus also live with other mental health conditions, particularly depression and anxiety. Many veterans already deal with anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. For them, a constant ringing in their ears can amplify issues they’re already dealing with, making it that much more important that they seek help from an experienced audiologist.
Social Isolation Amongst Veterans
When our veterans return home is when they need the companionship of their friends and family the most. But living with tinnitus – and any associated hearing loss – can lead our veterans to become withdrawn and isolated. And because hearing loss and the social isolation that comes with it are only exacerbated with age, our older veterans are at even greater risk of feeling anxious and alone.
Hearing Aids Are Helpful
People with tinnitus often find hearing aids to be helpful for relieving the sounds of tinnitus, communicating with others and hearing and the world around them. For veterans who may already be dealing with mental health conditions that can keep them isolated, the option of hearing aids becomes even more important in keeping them connected to their family and friends when they need them the most.
Get A Hearing Test and Diagnosis
If you know a veteran who served our country, encourage them to visit an audiologist for a hearing test. Let's not just bring our veterans home, but lets make sure they have the tools they need to live their lives to the fullest.