By Debbie Gregory.
Hearing loss affects more than 28 million Americans, including more than half of those over age 75. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), hearing problems are by far the most prevalent service-connected disability among American Veterans.
The most likely reason that veterans have higher rates of hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing, buzzing, or other type of noise that originates in the head) than the general public is due to the noise levels encountered while in the military.
Many veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan have been exposed to blasts during their service. A blast can compromise not only the ear itself, but also the connection between the ear and the brain.
Additionally, sensory problems are common among veterans who have had traumatic brain injury.
Last year alone, more than 293,000 veterans were awarded service-connected disability for tinnitus and hearing loss. In total, more than 2.7 million Veterans currently receive disability benefits for hearing loss and/or tinnitus.
The only percentage rating available for tinnitus is a maximum of 10%, regardless of whether you have ringing in one ear or in both ears. But if you also have hearing loss, you are entitled to one rating for hearing loss and another for tinnitus.
The VA provides comprehensive hearing health care services to veterans as part of their medical benefits, with direct access to audiology clinics for evaluation and treatment of hearing loss. Hearing health services includes ever aspect from prevention to diagnostics to treatment.
VA researchers, engineers, and clinicians are looking for ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat hearing loss. They are also addressing a wide range of technological, medical, rehabilitative, and social issues associated with tinnitus and blast exposure.