Soldiers rarely come back from abroad unscathed. The media often discuss veterans with issues such as PTSD and physical injuries, but did you know that the top two most compensated disabilities are tinnitus and hearing loss, according to the Veteran’s Benefit Administration?
Hearing Loss and Veterans
These are the numbers: In 2012, 414,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan had experienced tinnitus, known as the beast in your ears, service-related hearing loss, or both.
The Center of Disease Control and Prevention reports that veterans are 30 percent more likely to have severe hearing loss than nonveterans and those who served after September 2001 are four times as likely. On top of that, the chance of a soldier getting an auditory injury is climbing by 13 percent to 18 percent a year.
Dangerous Conditions and Hearing Loss
It’s a situation that’s akin to being stuck between a rock and a hard place. On-site positions in the military inevitably include being exposed to abnormally loud conditions such as eardrum-blasting roadside bombs, air strikes, and firefights, which all involve noise levels that are considered dangerous.
Soldiers are given military-issued hearing protection to help mitigate damage done to their ears, but they are often not used, or used incorrectly, as circumstances such as ambushes and bombings happen unexpectedly without appropriate time to react and insert earplugs.
Hearing Loss Protection
Despite these downsides, military officials and the government are taking steps to protect soldiers’ hearing. They have made efforts in producing improved and easier-to-use earplugs that now come with instructions to ensure proper use. They have encouraged and provided education about hearing loss and hearing safety amongst their soldiers, and testing is done in war zones to detect ear injuries.
Additionally, hearing-trained specialists are now available to troops at the front lines instead of just the field hospitals. Lastly, the Navy is working with America BioHealth Group in attempts to develop a hearing pill that could provide protection. Early studies done in 2003 showed a 25 to 27 percent reduction in permanent hearing loss, which is certainly promising.
While the military is taking steps to protect their soldiers, Audicus encourages soldiers to maintain a healthy lifestyle.