Hearing loss can happen to anyone, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t discriminate. Those who work in loud industrial jobs have some of the highest rates of hearing loss, and young people who regularly use earbuds at high volumes are showing higher rates of hearing loss than ever. Another group that is disproportionately affected by hearing loss is our veterans. Military service comes with some health costs, and the U.S. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital system is there to care for these many needs that arise through military service.
It might come as some surprise that the two most common reasons that veterans seek assistance from VA hospitals are tinnitus and hearing loss. Whether through training, service, or active duty, it seems that veterans are exposed to higher rates of noise that are sufficient to induce both tinnitus and hearing loss. As we consider what can be done to prevent hearing loss in the armed services, we can also come to better understand just how essential treatment is for those who have these conditions.
Preventing Military Hearing Loss and Tinnitus
With these two conditions being the top two causes of a visit to the VA hospital, healthcare workers are actively seeking preventative measures from within the context of military service. Hearing protection has advanced far beyond the days of disposable foam earplugs, though they continue to be a useful solution for many contexts. Noise-cancelling earmuffs are essential for practice firing ranges, because they provide better protection against blasts than other earplugs. Many wear both forms of protection at the same time. Sound protective helmets are another excellent source of protection. An added benefit of these helmets are built-in communication systems. These headsets make it possible to communicate directly with team members while taking part in a loud flight, combat, or training simulation.
Despite these advances, some military contracts have not supplied the tactical equipment they promised. In one case, The Minnesota-based 3M Company and Aearo Technologies sold Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) to the Department of Defense. These dual-ended earplugs were too short for proper insertion or protection, and they had the tendency to loosen imperceptibly while they were being worn. Not only did 3M supply a defective set of protective wear, but reports demonstrate that they knew they were supplying defective devices for the purpose. A settlement has been reached with the company, and more than 1 million veterans have received disability compensation for hearing loss, along with an additional 1.6 million veterans who are compensated for tinnitus. Both the military, the VA system, and the vast network of contractors are now responsible for preventing this type of protection error in the future.
Treatment for Hearing Impaired Veterans
Just like the other populations who have higher rates of tinnitus and hearing loss, veterans deserve access to the best treatment available. The VA system is able to supply treatment for many of them, and coordination with other agencies is often necessary for diagnosis of needs and delivery of hearing devices. The process of treatment begins with testing, and a thorough consultation will reveal the dynamics of interpersonal communication and tinnitus symptoms that are not apparent in diagnostic measures. With a full diagnosis in hand, veterans can be paired with the right hearing aids for their individual needs, both in terms of lost hearing ability and lifestyle features.
Some will be drawn to hearing aids that have Bluetooth connectivity and other media sync possibilities, weaving them seamlessly into their lives. Others will prefer simple models with fewer features that are sufficient for hearing amplification in the range that is needed. Treatment is not only available for hearing loss but for many cases of tinnitus, as well.
Tinnitus treatment can often come through hearing aids that emit a series of frequencies that match and eliminate the subjective experience of tinnitus ringing in the ears. With these options available, it is crucial to connect veterans with the best treatment options available, giving them the support they need to continue to thrive in their lives after service. If you are a veteran with untreated tinnitus or hearing loss, don’t delay making an appointment to connect with these services and treatment.