Noise-induced hearing loss is a significant impairment for veterans of the military. These soldiers receive exposure to high noise levels which causes tinnitus and hearing loss. The majority of this noise exceeds the maximum protection achievable with standard hearing protection, and large numbers of veterans are experiencing hearing loss. Traditional earplugs are now under scrutiny, and legal action is underway against one manufacturer. What can be done to protect the hearing of our soldiers better and how can we provide the best treatment possible for them?
Veterans experience repeated exposure to loud noises that exceed thresholds set forth by hearing experts. This noise-induced hearing loss then occurs when the excessive noise damages the hearing mechanisms in the inner ear. When this noise exceeds certain levels, the nerve endings in the inner ear start to become damaged. When this process happens repeatedly, the nerve endings endure irreparable damage. Hearing loss ranks among the top disabilities for veterans. According to Veterans Affairs (VA), 300,000 veterans have a hearing loss diagnosis. Hearing loss has a profound impact on veterans including:
Many veterans receive compensation for their hearing loss, tinnitus, and auditory processing disorder which is caused by blast exposure.
A recent lawsuit is bringing attention to hearing loss among veterans. Army veteran Kelby Rice is suing the earplug manufacturer that provided him and his comrades with ear protection during their enlistment. The lawsuit details how the company knew the plugs were defective but continued selling them to the military for more than ten years. This case and others are bringing attention to a severe problem.
Members of the military are often required to perform their jobs in conditions that exceed sound levels that the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) deems safe. It is not uncommon for military personnel deployed in combat to encounter levels between 103 dB and +180 dB. Many veterans report symptoms of hearing damage, tinnitus, ringing in the ears, balance problems, vertigo, and permanent hearing loss. The case highlights the importance of quality hearing protection and education for hearing loss.
If you are a veteran make it a priority to have your hearing checked. Hearing healthcare professionals at the VA can provide veterans with many hearing health services including:
The VA is the largest employer of hearing healthcare professionals in the United States with over 400 sites of care. Check out what the VA can do for you today. Good hearing is essential for a veteran’s quality of life and their ability to function independently.