When considering post-combat injuries in veterans, PTSD, missing limbs, and brain damage may come to mind. What many often don’t consider is hearing loss as a severe combat injury. Here are 5 facts you may not know about hearing loss among veterans.
- The most common post-service malady happens to be hearing damage or loss. – Hearing loss is even more common than PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). IEDs (improvised explosive devices) can cause hearing damage just as much as commonplace military noise can. The deafening sounds of tank, plane, and ship engines contributes to temporary to permanent hearing loss and tinnitus, as do explosive devices and other loud weapons. Soldiers who have served since September 2011 are especially afflicted with hearing damage. In fact, 414,000 post 9/11 soldiers have come home with some form of tinnitus or hearing loss.
- Soldiers are more likely to suffer hearing damage than civilians. – Veterans are 30 percent more likely than nonveterans to suffer hearing loss of the severe kind. Additionally, post-911 soldiers were actually four times more likely to lose their hearing than civilians.
- Hearing loss may be more prevalent now than it was for soldiers in the past. – With the advent of improvised explosive devices and more powerful combat technology, more veterans are coming home with hearing loss than their predecessors. Field generators, “bunker buster” bombs, and loud transportation such as helicopters can be deafening.
- Unfortunately, many of the soldiers who come home with loss of hearing do not seek help. – According to experts, many soldiers with hearing loss or tinnitus choose to live with the problem, rather than getting help. In fact, most people will wait an average of 7 years from initially noticing hearing loss to actually seeking medical attention.
- Breakthroughs in neuroscience may help those who suffer severe tinnitus. – Some scientists assert that low serotonin levels may be linked to how severe a person’s tinnitus can be. Low serotonin can cause insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Fortunately, with the help of tinnitus therapies and antidepressants, some veterans have found relief from severe tinnitus.