Hearing loss and tinnitus are the most common conditions veterans experience. Veterans are incredibly more likely to develop these conditions as a result of loud noise exposure and injury. If you or your loved one is a veteran, be sure to prioritize having your hearing assessed. You can also qualify for VA benefits that increase accessibility to hearing healthcare. Hearing Loss, Tinnitus, & Veterans
Veterans disproportionately experience both hearing loss and tinnitus. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, in 2020:
- more than 1.3 million Veterans were receiving disability compensation for hearing loss
- more than 2.3 million received compensation for tinnitus
Over 3 million people receive benefits for hearing loss and tinnitus which are the top two conditions among veterans.
The most major cause of hearing loss and tinnitus for veterans is environmental exposure to loud noise. Veterans are constantly surrounded by hazardous levels of sound, including:
- Operating heavy machinery
- Engaging in or being around gunfire, bombs
- Aircrafts, tanks
Known as noise-induced hearing loss, this can occur as a result of one time or consistent absorption of higher volumes of sound. Loud noise can damage the hair cells in the inner heart. These sensory cells play a critical role in converting soundwaves into electrical signals that then get sent to the brain.
The brain is then able to assign meaning to these signals which is what allows us to understand what we hear. Loud noise can cause these cells to lose sensitivity and die over time. Because they do not regenerate (like other types of cells we have), this damage is permanent, resulting in hearing loss. One of the most common symptoms of hearing loss is tinnitus which describes a buzzing or ringing like noise heard in one or both ears.
Another cause of hearing loss and tinnitus for veterans is injuries. Sustaining traumatic brain injuries or other types of head/neck injuries can also cause hearing loss. Both hearing loss and tinnitus strain communication which can have a variety of effects on health and daily life. If you are a veteran, it is important to have your hearing evaluated which can allow you to access healthcare benefits that can be used towards prioritizing your hearing health. VA Benefits for Hearing Loss
Receiving hearing healthcare is particularly important for veterans. Working in hazardous environments that have dangerous levels of sound as well as risk of injury puts veterans at a really high risk for developing hearing health related issues. A common question is if Veterans can file for disability benefits on the basis of hearing loss. And the answer is yes. The VA offers a few helpful services to help veterans access and navigate hearing healthcare. These services include:
- Health benefits: this includes receiving hearing healthcare services for lower costs or even free. These services include comprehensive testing and evaluating for hearing loss as well as for hearing aids.
- Disability compensation: monthly tax free payments that can go towards hearing healthcare services.
To be eligible for these benefits, the first step is to enroll in the VA health benefits system. You can do this by applying for enrollment online, over the phone, or in person at your local VA healthcare facility. Tips to Protect Hearing Health
In addition to treating hearing loss, there are ways you can protect your hearing health. This is especially important for Veterans who are more vulnerable to hearing loss damage. A few tips include:
- Wear hearing protection. This can include ear plugs, earmuffs, and headphones which protect the ears from absorbing loud noise. Hearing protection services as a barrier, reducing the amount of loud noise one abu sbrs. Wearing protective gear in the workplace, while commuting, and participating in other loud activities is a great way to reduce your exposure to loud noise.
- Reduce exposure. There are additional ways to reduce exposure to loud noise – maintaining lower volume settings on electronic devices, avoiding noisy environments, as well as investing in noise canceling headphones which reduce background noise.
- Take listening breaks. Your ears and brain are constantly processing noise throughout the day. So take listening breaks where you power any sources of sound off and are in a space that is quieter. This provides your ears and brain with time and space to rest and replenish.
Contact us to learn more about protecting your hearing health. We offer a range of services and individualized care that can transform your health.