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For Veterans Some of the Deepest Wounds Are Invisible

Media Contact: GoLocalWorcester Health Team and Beltone | Email | For Veterans Some of the Deepest Wounds Are Invisible | May 28, 2016

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Sixty percent of veterans returning home suffer from hearing loss, tinnitus, or auditory disorders – now considered the most prevalent injury among returning veterans. This is according to the Hearing Health Foundation. Historically, hearing loss was common in soldiers exposed to active fire, with weapons powered by gunpowder, but when the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other modern weapons, came into the equation, wartime service has taken an unprecedented toll on combatants’ hearing.veteran_300_220_90

While we think of the maiming war injuries that veterans live with, and the stress on the healthcare system that strives to address them, we don’t often think of tinnitus and hearing loss as one of those injuries – but just ask a veteran who suffers from them. The life changing toll of the service experience that is compounded by hearing loss is very real, and constant, impacting on one’s personal life, physical and psychological wellbeing, ability to continue to serve in the military, and impacting on one’s future work.

In 2009, the US Congress directed the establishment of the Hearing Center of Excellence, within the US Department of Defense, and partnered with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The mission includes development of a data registry to track hearing loss and auditory injuries across the armed forces, hearing research, developing best practices and clinical education, and ensuring the coordination and delivery of VA rehabilitation services to veterans with hearing loss.

While in active service, the Hearing Center of Excellence, conducts a wide variety of awareness programs, designed to prevent hearing loss. Campaigns bring across messages such as “You are not fit for duty…unless your ears are” – and – “Only fear what you cannot hear” – and – “Don’t be the weak link.” These messages stress the value of ear protection as well as provide encouragement for auditory testing and treatment.

Double-edged Sword

Veterans who suffer from PTSD and/or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) often have these conditions combined with hearing loss, tinnitus and other auditory processing injuries such as dizziness and balance. In multi-trauma cases, hearing issues can often be overlooked by conditions which overshadow what might be the causative or contributing factor. That’s where education for clinicians and accurate diagnoses and treatment comes in.

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