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. These 5 facts about veterans and hearing loss may surprise you.
- The number one injury soldiers suffer from combat is loss of hearing. – Hearing loss is even more common than PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Severe hearing loss is commonly caused by bomb detonations and general military and combat noise. Improvised explosive devices, loud weapons, and other sounds such as the engines of ships, planes, and tanks can cause tinnitus and temporary to permanent loss of hearing. 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.
- Veterans have been found to be more susceptible to loss of hearing than those who haven’t served in the military. – The CDC (Center for Disease Control) estimates that soldiers are 30 percent more likely to lose their hearing than civilians. 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.
- Only a small number of soldiers returning home with damaged hearing actually get medical attention right away. – 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.
- Neuroscience innovations may be a way to alleviate severe tinnitus. – While there is no cure for tinnitus, some scientists believe there is a correlation between serotonin depletion (which can lead to depression, anxiety, and insomnia) and the severity of tinnitus. Some veterans with tinnitus have found that anti-depressants combined with other tinnitus therapies eased their chronic condition significantly.