DEAFNESS RELATED TO MILITARY SERVICE

I was thinking last night about how many situations arise where men and women in the military are exposed to excessive noise for extended periods of time. I really was surprised that I hadn’t thought of it before, so many of the veterans I work with have some level of hearing impairment. But how can veterans know if their deafness was caused by military related experiences or are just the normal effects of aging?

I went on line to research the topic and found that the government has recently completed a study on the effects of hearing loss from military-related exposure. What the study showed was that hearing impairment can be greatly influenced by time spent in the military. That makes sense; gunfire, plane launches and landings, tank operations, shipboard deployments and many more causes have a negative effect on hearing. Studies are difficult because the duration of exposure can vary as well as the causes of exposure. A typical soldier may be required to ride in a cargo truck, fire a weapon repeatedly, be exposed to explosions and excessive engine noises all in a relatively short period of time. But that exposure may happen again and again on subsequent days for months on end.

Determining how much of the hearing loss in an individual is the result of military exposure or a natural decline related to aging is almost impossible. However, the assumption that certainly some of it is service-related has to be accepted. After many years of refusing to help with treating hearing loss, the VA has stepped up and is doing a better job of covering the cost of hearing aids. It’s about time.

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