Veterans have made countless sacrifices in service to our country. These costs can range from physical injuries, to the toll their service takes on their patient families, or long-term health issues and, of course, even their lives.
If you have a loved one who has served in the military, your life may focus on caring for an injured veteran. While many wounds are noticeable, some of the most common injuries lead to so-called “hidden disabilities.” One hidden disability is hearing loss. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, hearing issues are veterans’ most common service-related disability in the United States.¹ With as many as 2.7 million veterans receiving disability compensation¹ or treatment for hearing issues, it’s important for people who care for vets to know how to help.
Step one: recognizing signs of hearing loss in veterans
For most people, hearing loss occurs gradually over time. However, for soldiers, hearing loss or tinnitus can happen after exposure to extremely loud noise or from the power of a blast, such as an IED. In fact, the ears are often the first and most common organ to sustain an injury from a blast.² If your loved one has served in the armed forces, it is important to look for the signs of hearing loss, which can be immediately noticeable or develop over time. These may include:
Problems understanding what someone is saying, even if you can hear that they are speaking.
Having trouble understanding conversations in restaurants or places where background noise is present.
Ringing or buzzing sound in the ears. This condition, called tinnitus, can indicate hearing loss.
Feeling a fullness in your ears, like you are underwater.
Needing the volume to be higher than others need in order to hear the TV, radio or music.
Treatment options for veterans with hearing loss
Fortunately for veterans, the Veterans Affairs medical program includes hearing care, providing coverage that includes hearing aids. In fact, the VA hearing aid contract has recently expanded to include the latest products from Oticon. For information on getting help from the VA, check out their extensive website, VA.gov, where you can also find VA locations that include audiology services.
Focusing on preventing hearing loss in soldiers
While we can’t change past exposure to noise or explosives, the Department of Defense has a Hearing Center of Excellence (HCE) that focuses on prevention, diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss and auditory injury. Last year, they launched a new app that includes a course to reduce military hearing loss. The HCE has a host of hearing-related resources aimed at educating military personnel and veterans.
Caregivers need hearing care, too
Are you caring for a veteran? Even if you haven’t seen combat, you may have been exposed to excessive noise by living near a military base or even just by attending a rock concert. As a caregiver, you need to hear well. Whether it is for your own well-being, or so you can provide the best help to your loved one, it’s important that you can communicate clearly with physicians and others. And the benefits of hearing loss go far beyond hearing your loved ones better. In fact, we’ve identified 52 benefits of better hearing.
Celebrating veterans today and always
If you are a veteran, we thank you for your service and offer information on veterans and hearing loss. If you are among the millions of family members who care for veterans, we invite you to come for a complimentary hearing assessment to see if you have hearing loss.
¹https://www.hearingloss.org/wp-content/uploads/HLAA_HearingLoss_Facts_Statistics.pdf?pdf=FactStats. Accessed November 7, 2019.
²Joseph, Antony, et al. “Impact of Blast Injury on Hearing in a Screened Male Military Population.” American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 187, Issue 1, January 2018, Pages 7–15. https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/187/1/7/3860098. Accessed November 7, 2019.