Missing appendages, post-traumatic stress, and brain trauma: These are what many people think of when they think about post-combat injuries. Hearing loss, though, may not often come to mind. 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). IEDs (improvised explosive devices) can cause hearing damage just as much as commonplace military noise can. 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.
- Hearing loss may be more prevalent now than it was for soldiers in the past. – Larger and louder weapons technology very likely contributes to higher numbers of veterans with hearing loss. Field generators and powerful “bunker buster” bombs are extremely loud and dangerous to the ears. Even helicopters can cause loss of hearing.
- Soldiers are more likely to suffer hearing damage than civilians. – Veterans are 30 percent more likely than nonveterans to suffer hearing loss of the severe kind. Even more concerning is that among those who served from September 2001 to March 2010, veterans were four times more like to suffer hearing loss than nonveterans.
- Neuroscience innovations may be a way to alleviate severe tinnitus. – Some scientists assert that low serotonin levels may be linked to how severe a person’s tinnitus can be. Low serotonin can cause insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Therefore treatments to raise serotonin levels have aided some veterans not just with their PTSD but with their tinnitus as well. These treatments can be antidepressants, medical marijuana in small doses (which have to be managed carefully in order to manage “weed tolerance“), or medicines categorized as SSRI.
- Many veterans suffering from hearing impairment don’t seek medical help right away. – Veterans aren’t just avoiding seeking help for mental health conditions. Experts say that too few returning soldiers who suffer tinnitus or hearing loss go to a hearing specialist or audiologist upon returning home – they often live simply live with the problem. In fact, most people will wait an average of 7 years from initially noticing hearing loss to actually seeking medical attention.