Prevalence of Hearing Loss in the Military
While work-related injuries can occur in nearly every profession, certain careers are inherently riskier than others. A clear example of this would be the military. In those who serve as combat soldiers, the most common injuries sustained are hearing disorders, specifically, hearing loss and tinnitus. Experts approximate that roughly 50 percent of combat soldiers suffer some degree of hearing loss. This percentage is much higher than in their civilian counterparts, of whom 20 percent experience hearing loss. Since hearing loss is known to impact an individual’s emotional, mental and physical well-being, this condition can take a significant toll on our returning veterans.
In recent decades, the Pentagon has taken some initiative to improve accessibility to hearing protection for combat soldiers. Retired soldier Stephen Carlson reported in The Washington Post that mandatory forms of hearing protection—ranging from over-the-ear headphones to noise-canceling earplugs—were provided to soldiers, but rarely used in practice. A common explanation for this practice is survivability. Soldiers fear missing commands or being unaware of their surrounds in high-pressure situations.
Further discussions have been held at the governmental level to determine more effective solutions. In 2013, the Office of Naval Research began an initiative to find better hearing preservation alternatives. The organization met with experts in the industry of hearing health to discuss the future of hearing protection research, which will be focused on:
- Creating personalized solutions
- Developing medical solutions to maintain auditory function
- Measuring noise exposure in combat
Experts in the industry of hearing disorders have that found hearing loss is not an isolated condition. When left untreated through the use of hearing aids, it can lead to social isolation, depression, cognitive decline and heightened anxiety. Considering the role hearing plays in our overall well-being, these hearing loss treatment and protection initiatives could be life-changing for veterans.
Since there is no known cure for hearing loss, it is important that we take serious precautions to protect the auditory systems of our combat soldiers. Even after hearing loss has occurred, treating the condition through the use of a hearing aid can help prevent the further deterioration of the auditory system and help prevent the complications that arise due to an untreated loss. To learn more about how hearing aids can improve your overall health, or to find a provider of hearing aid repair near Thousand Oaks, CA contact our team of audiology professionals at 805.449.2380.