Often referred to as an “invisible disability,” hearing loss is the most common injury in veterans, and tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears) is the second most common. According to the Hearing Health Foundation, 60 percent of veterans return home with hearing loss and/or tinnitus. This is a significant number, especially considering that most hearing loss is completely preventable.
The high incidence of hearing loss in veterans is often due to frequent exposure to noise during their time serving. Sound sources such as explosions, helicopters, combat vehicles, and loud weaponry can lead to a hearing condition known as noise-induced hearing loss. We hear when the hair cells in our ears move, sending electrical signals to the brain. High decibel levels damage these hair cells, which results in a lasting decrease in hearing ability and/or symptoms of tinnitus.
Depending on the level of noise one is exposed to, noise-induced hearing loss can occur in a matter of seconds, or it can happen over time; however it only takes 85 decibels to leave the listener with permanent damage. To put it in perspective, the average lawn mower reaches about 85 decibels and fireworks reach an average of 145 decibels. Combat noise can be even louder than that!
This is why it is so important for veterans to address their hearing needs and get treatment, if necessary. There is no cure for hearing loss, but thankfully, hearing aids can provide a natural listening experience, enhance speech, allow for a wide range of frequencies, and even provide tinnitus relief!
There are also preventive measures that can be taken. Regular hearing screenings can help detect hearing conditions, as well as identify factors that may have caused hearing loss. For veterans and those currently serving, these hearing screenings should happen at least annually. There is also available hearing protection, such as ear plugs, that can reduce the risk of hearing damage significantly.
Are you an active service member or a veteran? You can make an appointment today to address your hearing healthcare needs!Make an Appointment