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Hearing loss is extremely common in America, with an estimated 20% of the population having experienced it, but veterans who’ve served in combat zones have experienced much higher percentages of hearing loss. Hearing loss and tinnitus are now the most frequent service-related disabilities among troops who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2011, over 800,000 veterans received disability benefits; of those, 18% received these benefits as the result of tinnitus or hearing loss, compared with 5.3% who received similar benefits as the result of suffering PTSD.

The result is a public health problem of the highest order, one that cannot help but get worse in the future, as the noise-induced hearing loss experienced by these soldiers gets worse as a result of normal age-related hearing loss. The tinnitus component is often worse because of the side effects. The constant ringing in the ears is know to lead to headaches, mood changes, anxiety, insomnia, vision changes and depression. But tinnitus is only part of the problem, because many veterans have experienced more profound hearing loss or deafness.

The reason that there is so much hearing loss in the military, according to VA-accredited claims agent Brett Buchanan, is that “The military, in general, is just a high noise-producing environment.” For example, he describes the working and living conditions below deck on most Naval ships at filled with “the constant drumming of engines and metal-on-metal noise.” Soldiers in the Army and Marines may spend substantial portions of their day in or around noisy tanks and transport carriers. In a war zone, these become background noise with gunfire and explosions layered on as the foreground. Taken together you have ideal conditions for hearing problems. The U.S. military, to its credit, tries to do what it can to prevent hearing loss by providing soldiers with hearing protection in the form of noise-reducing earplugs. But, while these are fine on the target range while practicing, when bullets are actually blazing by and IEDs or mortars are exploding around them, no one stops to put in their earplugs.

Some of the problem may be solved in the future by providing more sensitive earplugs to soldiers that selectively block out loud sounds such as explosions or guns firing, but allow soldiers to hear even whispered commands. Meanwhile, the VA has become the largest single consumer of hearing aids in the U.S., providing them to veterans who need them at little or no cost. So if you are a military veteran who has experienced some form of hearing loss, contact us for an accurate diagnosis of the nature of your hearing problem. We can recommend the best hearing aid to solve the problem, and help you work with the VA to obtain them at the lowest cost to you possible.