Of the top 10 most common veteran disabilities, auditory injuries/issues are boss, taking spots 1 and 2.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, exposure to sounds at 85 decibels or higher can contribute to hearing loss and auditory ailments. 85 decibels might seem like a lot, but if you look over the graph below, you can see that almost all people are exposed to sounds that are above 85 decibels multiple times each day. Service members are exposed to noises about 85 decibels almost constantly.
- Tinnitus– Tinnitus is the term for when you feel ringing or noise inside the ear. It is often also a symptom of another injury/issue, such as:
- Hearing loss (most common)
- Neck or head injury/trauma
- Middle ear disease
- Neurological disorder
- Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
- High blood pressure
- Autoimmune disorders, including those exacerbated by stress or mental health conditions
90% of those suffering from tinnitus actually have some level of noise-induced hearing loss. The most effective way of treating tinnitus is to treat the hearing loss with hearing aids. Read more about tinnitus here.
2. Bilateral Hearing Loss- This is the second most common veteran disability. Bilateral hearing loss can mean sounds are muffled and hard to hear clearly, there is trouble hearing consonants, difficulty understanding words, asking others to speak up or speak more clearly, etc. This can lead those suffering from it to become extremely frustrated with others and/or themselves, or embarrassed and avoiding conversational situations.
**Hearing loss is not just related to combat; as working around loud machinery, engines, etc is just as likely to be a factor.
Disability rating for hearing loss/tinnitus: Once service connection has been established, the VA assigns disability rating based on severity. The rating is based primarily on these two factors and tests:
- Speech discrimination- how well the person understands what someone else is saying
- Tone threshold- establishing the softest sound that the individual is able to hear 50% of the time
Hearing loss is no small thing. Studies have shown that untreated hearing loss is linked to other conditions which can be life-altering and serious, such as depression and anxiety, increased risk for falls, decline in work performance, social withdrawal and isolation, and more.
To read more on veteran hearing loss, visit the pages below: