Sound after service: hearing health for our veterans
This Veterans Day, as we honor our nation’s warriors, some attention should be paid to the common but often overlooked condition many of our veterans face after returning from combat: hearing loss. According to the Hearing Health Foundation, the “number one war wound” is hearing loss. As many as 60 percent of veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan have some form of hearing loss or tinnitus as a result of their time spent on the battlefield. Since those with even mild hearing loss are twice as likely to succumb to dementia, recognizing and addressing hearing loss in veterans, who could likely suffer other side effects of war, is critical in maintaining his or her mental health.
Since 90 percent of tinnitus cases occur in conjunction with another form of hearing loss, it’s important to seek the advice of a hearing health practitioner if you or a veteran you know is experiencing tinnitus. The severity of the tinnitus can increase over time, and while it can’t always be cured, your hearing health professional can often pinpoint the cause and prescribe treatment, whether that be a coping mechanism, medication, a non-invasive procedure or surgery. More importantly, since tinnitus is an indicator of a more serious form of hearing loss, the potential for early detection of another condition is very high if you see your hearing health practitioner about tinnitus. Your hearing health practitioner can fit you with hearing aids or take other action before the onset of the more serious side effects of hearing loss.
A 2011 study conducted by the International Tinnitus Journal found 60 percent of chronic tinnitus patients also suffered some form of psychiatric disorder, with depression and anxiety the most common afflictions. Dealing with a relentless ringing in your ears is enough to frustrate anyone, but for veterans, many who face other complications such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dealing with tinnitus alone can be debilitating. For nearly two million Americans, tinnitus is so severe that it interferes with their daily lives.
Many people with tinnitus, and especially other forms of hearing loss, run the risk of becoming isolated from those around them. Suddenly faced with the loss of what has always been an essential way to process the surrounding world, many adults with sudden onset hearing loss are unaware how to handle the abrupt change. Loneliness is also a serious side effect of hearing loss that can lead to depression, so it’s important to remain engaged with them. If you have a loved one returning home from war, make the extra effort to communicate, even if you have never dealt with hearing loss before.
It’s common knowledge that hearing often fades with age. Since many veterans have pre-existing hearing loss from their time in the service, the aging process could potentially take a greater toll on them and their hearing. As you or your loved one get older, seeking the proper help and advice becomes increasingly important. A study published in January by Johns Hopkins Medicine provides evidence of a link between hearing loss and the accelerated loss of brain tissue. Decreased interaction with others speeds up brain deterioration, and many people with hearing loss become withdrawn because of the difficulty in communicating. Taking advantage of available options, like hearing aids, and working to remain engaged can mean a longer, healthier life.
Our veterans have put their health and their lives on the line for us, so it’s our job to make sure they have the necessary means to live the happiest and healthiest lives they can once they return home. There are many options available for hearing loss treatment and we plan to continue veteran coverage on Thursday!