Study: Veterans More Susceptible to Hearing Loss
About 20 percent of adults in the United States, report some degree of hearing loss, but one population in particular is more susceptible to hearing loss.
“War is noisy. So unfortunately, even if they weren’t in active combat, if they had training, then they were involved in noise,” said Kristen Kennedy, a doctor of audiology at Syracuse University’s Gebbie Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic.
In fact, hearing loss is the most common injury reported by new veterans. The annual report from the Veterans Benefits Administration shows more than 135,000 new veterans suffer from tinnitus, or a ringing in the ears. Around 80,000 are dealing with hearing loss.
“The Vietnam era or the World War II era, those veterans didn’t have access to the products that they do now, such as hearing protection. New veterans do have access to different hearing protection devices, but we do still see injuries,” said Trista Channels, chief of audiology service at the Syracuse VA Medical Center.
“Our older vets too, they of course haven’t been in the military in quite some time, so now they’re having a double incidence of age related and the past-history of noise induced which make them struggle,” Kennedy said.
Signs to look for include veterans asking people to repeat things and turning up the TV volume to levels that are too loud for others.
“Maybe during family gatherings or in noisy environments that their loved ones are not joining in conversations or seem to be confused by the topic of the conversation,” Kennedy said.
Experts say 20 percent of people who could benefit from a hearing aid don’t wear one, which is a problem because detecting hearing loss and getting a hearing aid early is crucial to preserve cognitive function. And now, the technology is making hearing aids more attractive and effective.
“Some of our more savvy veterans that are into technology, we can link their cell phones with their hearing aids and we can stream from TVs, cell phones, things with Bluetooth devices right to their hearing aids,” said Channels.
Veterans need to get referred to a VA audiologist by their VA primary care provider to get their hearing aid benefit.