When people think of those suffering from hearing loss, they think of their senior loved ones who listen to the TV too loud, or young children who were born with hearing impairments. Veterans are rarely considered, and yet they remain one of the groups most likely to suffer from hearing impairment as a result of their action on the ground during war.
Hearing Loss Is The Most Common Injury Among Veterans
It is estimated that of the veterans who have served in wars since 9/11, over 400,000 of them suffer from some degree of hearing loss or tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Interviews with veterans reveal that hearing loss and other auditory problems are the most common injury they have to deal with. Treating hearing problems for veterans costs over $1 billion per year, and one fifth of all hearing aids sold in the United States are sold to veterans.
Helicopters Clock In at 100 Decibels
Remember that normal conversation at around 60 decibels is what is safe for our hearing. But soldiers in combat are subjected to sounds that greatly exceed safe levels. Helicopters make noise around 100 decibels, flight decks have noise levels of around 130 decibels and the sound within 50 feet of an exploding grenade is about 160 decibels.
Blast Pressure Damages Ear Drums
The pressure from blasts is also a contributing factor to hearing loss. It only takes pressure of 5 pounds per square inch (psi) to damage an ear drum, and the explosives that soldiers are exposed to can be greater than 60 psi.
The Most Common, Least Talked About War Injury
Though hearing impairments are extremely common among veterans, they don’t get as much attention as brain injuries, lost limbs and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Hearing Loss Goes Untreated
And still, despite being so common, hearing impairments among veterans often go untreated for a variety of reasons – lack of knowledge about hearing loss, denied claims from the VA, or an unwillingness to seem “weak” because of an impairment.
Most veterans return from combat zones and don’t realize at first that their hearing has been compromised, or they just live with it. On average, it usually takes about seven years after someone realizes that they are having trouble hearing before they seek any kind of testing or treatment.