It should come as no surprise that active US soldiers from all branches of the military experience various levels of trauma and incidents of injury, both in and out of combat. However, did you know that among our post 9-11 veterans, over 414,000 troops have returned home with hearing loss?
In fact, the most widespread injury for veterans is hearing loss and hearing complications. A January 2011 Government Accountability Office report names hearing related injuries among soldiers as the most common documented trauma and disability.
Scott C. Forbes, immediate past-president of the Association of Veterans Administration Audiologists, calls hearing injury “the signature injury” among post 9-11 veterans. Hearing maladies cost more than $1.4 billion in veteran disability payments annually, according to fiscal year 2010 data from the Hearing Center of Excellence, a part of the Department of Defense. At least $216 million was spent that same year for hearing aids and related devices, according to an advisory committee report to the VA which works out to $348.15 per unit, 75c less than our flagship MDHearingAid AIR digital hearing aid.
Despite being such a prevalent condition, hearing problems don’t get much attention, because “in general, very few people die because of hearing loss,” said Theresa Schulz, a retired Air Force audiologist who now works in a similar capacity for Honeywell Safety Products.
Prolonged excessive noise damages hearing, according to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), a division of the National Institutes of Health. Loud noises destroy the ear’s special cells, called “hair cells.” The ear cannot grow new hair cells.”We know that it is usually seven years between the time someone notes a problem with their hearing and the time they actually seek medical attention for it,” said Nancy Macklin, director of events and marketing for the Hearing Loss Association of America.
Retired staff sergeant, Marine reservist Mauricio Mota served in five combat zones between 1987 and 2008. During his last tour in Iraq, he slept next to what he refers to as “deafening” field generators and rode in loud helicopters.
Shortly after his discharge, Mota was with his family at a mall when he stopped at a hearing professional’s office to get tested. Immediately, he was fitted with his first two hearing aids. “I walked out of that office and the world just opened up,” he said. “The first sound I remember hearing was the ‘click-click’ of a woman’s high heels!”
A 2010 government spending report states that one in five hearing aids sold annually in the U.S. are purchased by the VA. Now the VA can count on the folks at MDHearingAid to help these soldiers get back to living and working successfully in civilian life with better hearing and the sense of well-being and safety that follows.