Veterans and Hearing Loss

July 10, 2020

Veterans and Hearing Loss
Dr. Darcy Benson
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Veterans – particularly those who served in war zones – have levels of hearing loss considerably higher than the general population. Seeing that 20 percent of the U.S. population has some degree of hearing loss, veteran rates are disturbingly high. 

Hearing loss and tinnitus are among the most extensive injuries among soldiers who have served overseas. A Department of Veterans Affairs official overview, 2017 Benefits Survey, confirms this. Sadly, due to the highly noisy environments and equipment that troops encounter and operate regularly, such numbers are still growing.


The importance of ear protection

In the military, there is so much hearing loss because, in general, the armed forces feature some of the noisiest working environments of all occupations. 

Many sailors work below decks in high-noise environments, packed with continuous engine noises and metal-on-metal noise. 

Similarly, soldiers spend much of their day in or around heavy vehicles like tanks or transportation carriers in the army or marines. Add to this the sporadic sounds of gunshots and explosions, and you have a recipe for tinnitus and hearing loss. 

With this in mind, it’s no wonder that the military works to produce standard-issue protective devices for workers. 


Why ear protection today is better than you think

There is a common misconception among some service members that ear protection can impair communications during combat missions and impede efficient performance on the battlefield. That may have been true in the past, but technical developments have allowed hearing safety and communications to exist side-by-side. 

Standard earplugs can indeed interfere with communication requirements, effectively blocking too much noise. However, the latest technology earplugs use a filter that enables you to hear soft sounds still but eliminate high-frequency or impulse noise, such as noise from a gunshot or an explosion.

In this way, current service members do get the best of both worlds. 


Beware of low-quality hearing protection.

However, it is possible that an ineffective product or defective design could slip through the quality control process when buying safety equipment in bulk. In some instances, manufacturers may be marketing a commodity that is not working correctly.

There have been a few recent controversies surrounding hearing protection companies. For example, a case came to court in 2016, claiming that a hearing protection product sold to the military didn’t provide adequate hearing protection to troops using earplugs. 

These earplugs were too small to fit into the ear correctly. That meant that the personnel using the earplugs believed they were doing their hearing the right thing, but they were wearing inadequate protection. This false sense of security undermined their hearing safety and led to significant damage to the fragile cells in their inner ears.

As more veterans realize the error of the hearing protection company in question, they ‘re coming forward and filing complaints against the government. 

An army Sgt. from Texas, Scott Rowe, is demanding damages and restitution on Iraq’s front lines for the hearing loss he suffered. After relying on government-issued hearing protection, he lives with hearing loss and tinnitus, and he also struggles with vertigo and balance problems. 


It’s essential to check your hearing.

There are a host of reasons why reintegrating into civilian society can be difficult for a military veteran, but the hearing loss doesn’t have to be one of them. 

After the 3M issue, troops are considerably better shielded from duty noise. However, hearing loss is likely to remain a prevalent affliction among veterans so long as the armed conflict continues to involve gunshots, bombs, and heavy machinery. 

Prevention is the best medicine, but those suspecting hearing loss should get a hearing test and see what remedies are available for their particular situation. For example, many modern hearing aids have unique features that help relieve tinnitus and help improve hearing in noisy situations. 

Members of the service and members of the non-service will undergo daily hearing tests. Sometimes we have the nagging feeling our hearing is deteriorating, but we do nothing. Today’s hearing aids are discreet and technologically advanced, so there is no reason to delay treatment. To learn more and book a hearing test, contact us today.