When the men and women of our armed forces return home from service, they often suffer from emotional, physical, and mental problems. While healthcare for veterans is an ongoing discussion, relatively little attention has been paid to the most common disabilities diagnosed in veterans: Hearing loss and tinnitus.
Even if you take into account age and occupation, there’s a 30% higher chance of veterans having significant hearing impairment compared to non-veterans. Though service-related hearing loss has been documented going back to the second World War, the numbers are even more stunning for military personnel who served more recently. Veterans who have served recently are generally among the younger group of service members and are also up to four times more likely to have hearing loss than non-veterans.
Why is The Risk of Hearing Impairment Greater For Veterans?
The answer is simple: Exposure to noise. Some vocations are clearly noisier than others. Librarians, for example, are normally in a more quiet atmosphere. Thet would likely be exposed to decibel levels ranging from a whisper (around 30 dB) to normal conversation (60 dB).
At the other end of the sonic spectrum, for civilians at least, let’s say you’re a construction worker, and you’re on a job site that’s in the city. 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 machinery) are common on construction sites according to research.
Construction sites are undoubtedly loud, but individuals in the military are regularly exposed to noise that is a lot louder. In combat situations, troops are exposed to gunfire (150 dB), grenades (158 dB), and heavy artillery (180 dB). And it’s not quiet at military bases either. Indoor engine rooms are really loud and the deck of an aircraft carrier can be as loud as 130 – 160 dB. For aviators, sound levels are loud also, with helicopters being well over 100 dB and jets and other planes also being well above 100 dB. Another concern: Some jet fuels, according to one study, disrupt the auditory process causing hearing impairment.
Our service men and women don’t have the choice of opting out, as a 2015 study plainly demonstrates. They have to cope with noise exposure so that they complete missions and even day-to-day activities. And even though hearing protection is standard issue, lots of the sounds just described are so loud that even the best-performing hearing protection isn’t enough.
What Can Veterans do to Treat Hearing Loss?
Noise related hearing loss can be reduced with hearing aids even though it can’t be cured. The loss of high-pitch sound is the most prevalent kind of hearing loss 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 problem, treatment solutions are also available.
In serving our country, veterans have already made many sacrifices. They shouldn’t have to sacrifice their hearing too.