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Hearing Health After Military Service

Dec 19, 2014 Hearing Health After Military Service

Every year in November our country pauses to honor the service of our veterans – men and women who put their lives on the line to serve and fight for the lives of others. When our service men and women return home, great attention is paid to their mental and physical well-being. But the number one combat injury is often overlooked – hearing loss.

Hearing impairment affects 60 percent of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Hearing loss and  tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears) are all too common consequences of spending time on the battlefield, and taking care of our veterans' hearing is important to maintaining their overall health and helping them get back into their civilian lives.

Many Veterans Suffer From Tinnitus

Tinnitus is caused by constant or repeated loud sounds. It can also be caused by a one-time loud event that damages the hearing structures in the ear. Artillery fire – in training or on the battlefield – is a common cause of tinnitus amongst veterans. Though tinnitus can’t be cured, an audiologist will be able to determine the source of the tinnitus, and recommend treatment options to diminish the ringing in your ears. Tinnitus is often accompanied by hearing loss, so veterans who notice a ringing or buzzing in their ears should see an audiologist as soon as possible to make sure any further hearing impairment is taken care of.

Tinnitus And Mental Health

A study in the International Tinnitus Journal found that 60 percent of people who suffer from tinnitus also suffer from mental health conditions, particularly depression and anxiety. For veterans who may suffer from other conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the constant ringing in their ears from tinnitus can be even more frustrating and debilitating.

Hearing Impairment Leads To Social Isolation

Living with tinnitus – and the hearing loss that often accompanies tinnitus – can often lead to withdrawal and social isolation. For veterans, just when they need their friends and family the most, they may isolate themselves away from their loved ones because they can’t hear them properly. These conditions are exacerbated with age. As veterans get older, their hearing loss often gets worse. As a result, they withdraw even more from their social worlds, creating a debilitating cycle of anxiety and withdrawal.

Hearing Aids Can Help

Hearing aids can help tremendously with hearing loss and tinnitus, and are often the key to a social and engaging life. If you know a veteran who served our country, encourage them to visit an audiologist for a hearing assessment. Help make sure that veterans don’t just return to their homes, but they return to full and enriching lives.

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