When the men and women of our armed forces return home from service, they frequently suffer from emotional, physical, and mental difficulties. Within the continuing dialogue concerning veteran’s healthcare, the most commonly diagnosed disability is often relatively overlooked: Tinnitus and hearing loss.
Veterans are 30% more likely than civilians to suffer from significant hearing impairment, even when occupation and age are factored in. Hearing loss, related to military service, has been recognized at least back to World War 2, but it’s much more widespread in veterans who have served more recently. Recent veterans, who are also, on average, among the youngest former service members, are four times more likely than non-veterans to deal with severe hearing impairment.
Why is The Risk of Hearing Impairment Greater For Veterans?
The answer is simple: Noise exposure. Some vocations are obviously noisier than others. Librarians, for example, are normally in a more quiet atmosphere. The volume of sound that they would normally be exposed to would be from 30dB (a whisper) to 60 dB (average conversation).
For civilians who are at the other end of the sonic scale, such as an urban construction worker, the hazard increases. Background noises you would periodically hear, such as the siren of an emergency vehicle (120dB), or continuously, like heavy city traffic, are hazardous to your hearing. Sounds louder than 85dB (from power tools to heavy equipment) are prevalent on construction sites according to research.
Construction sites are undoubtedly loud, but individuals in the military are regularly exposed to noise that is far louder. In combat situations, troops are subjected to gunfire (150 dB), grenades (158 dB), and heavy artillery (180 dB). But military bases, whether at home or overseas, are not very quiet either. Indoor engine rooms are really loud and the deck of an aircraft carrier can be as loud as 130 – 160 dB. For pilots, noise levels are high as well, with helicopters being well over 100 dB and jets and other planes also being well above 100 dB. Another concern: Certain jet fuels, according to one study, interrupt the auditory process causing hearing impairment.
And as a 2015 study of hearing loss amongst military personnel adeptly highlights, for the men and women who serve our country, it’s not a choice, it’s a duty. In order to complete a mission or perform daily activities, they have to deal with noise exposure. And even the best performing, standard issue, hearing protection frequently isn’t enough to protect against some of these noises.
What Can Veterans do to Treat Hearing Loss?
Although hearing loss due to noise exposure is irreversible, the impairment can be eased with hearing aids. The loss of high-pitch sound is the most prevalent form of hearing impairment among veterans and this kind of impairment can be managed with specialized hearing aids. Tinnitus can’t be cured, but as it’s frequently a symptom of another issue, treatment solutions are also available.
Veterans have already made lots of sacrifices in serving our country. They shouldn’t have to sacrifice their hearing too.