One segment of our population hugely impacted by hearing loss issues is the military, specifically our military veterans. In fact, tinnitus is the number one health condition at VA medical centers across the country, with hearing loss coming in at number two.
Another alarming statistic is that moderately severe, or in some cases, even profoundly severe hearing loss, affects 52% of our brave combat soldiers.
Even veterans who have normal hearing scores often still have issues understanding speech. This is known as a central auditory processing disorder (CAPD) and is typically due to blast exposure.
How is Tinnitus Caused in Military Veterans?
Tinnitus is also more commonly known as ‘ringing in the ears’, but people also report hearing whistling, clicking or hissing sounds. It can sometimes indicate an underlying medical issue, but tinnitus in veterans is most often caused by excessive, cumulative exposure to loud noises.
The abnormal noises heard by someone suffering from tinnitus are caused because of damage done to the inner ear (cochlea). It can also leave them overly sensitive to loud noises.
For some military personnel, the risk of tinnitus is expected. In April 2016, an article was published in the Washington Post stating, “We treat hearing loss as an inevitable cost of war. It shouldn’t be.”
Military veterans have been exposed to a myriad of offensive, dangerously loud noises in the process of simply doing their job. The enormous roar of jet engines and tanks, the ships powered by massive turbines, even the weapons they carry, all contribute to an accumulation of damage to the inner ear that can leave them battling tinnitus, long after the military battle is over.
Combine those noises with additional loud noises from training exercises using live artillery, explosives, machine guns, mortars and other weapons, and it’s little wonder that tinnitus and other hearing loss disorders are the most prevalent service-related disabilities among our military veterans.
Hearing Aids for Military Veterans
The good news is that, while tinnitus can’t be cured, there are treatment methods that can ultimately lead to hearing improvement.
Hearing aids, or other hearing aid devices, can be used to increase the external noise volume, which helps to mask the tinnitus sounds. This helps train the brain to focus more on the external noises, and less on the ringing, buzzing or whistling sounds inside the inner ear.
Cochlear implants are usually used on patients who are totally deaf in both ears. However, they offer the same external sound-amplifying benefit of a hearing aid, which is especially useful in easing the symptoms of tinnitus, by allowing the brain to become less focused on the tinnitus sounds.
You Don’t Have to Live with a Hearing Impairment
Whether you’re suffering from the annoying ‘ringing in the ear’ noises of tinnitus or you’re experiencing diminished hearing ability, you don’t have to suffer with it forever. Today’s technology offers a multitude of hearing aid devices to help restore as much of your hearing as possible.
The first step is having your hearing checked by a qualified professional, so the quality of your current hearing ability can be properly assessed. Following a thorough examination, an otolaryngology specialist can help you decide the best course of action for your personal situation.