Hearing loss is one of the top service-connected disabilities among Veterans. With advancing age and noise exposure during service, many Veterans find they have concerns with their hearing. If you’re one of the many Veterans searching for answers about your hearing loss, we’ve got the information you need—from the most common types of hearing loss to the resources and treatments available to get you the help you deserve.
Common Types of Hearing Problems
Here are some of the most common hearing problems diagnosed in Veterans:
- Hearing loss – This can be mild or severe and depends on the type of damage to the ear. It may be age-related and cause you to have a hard time coping with loud noises or it may make it hard to distinguish what people are saying.
- Tinnitus – This is typically described as ringing in the ears, but it can also sound like clicking, hissing, high-pitched whistling or buzzing when no external sound is present. It can come and go and may be in one or both ears.
- Decreased sound tolerance – This is more likely after you’ve been exposed to blasts, gunfire and other loud explosions. It causes you to have a negative reaction to everyday sounds, such as being overwhelmed by background noise in a public place.
- Auditory processing problems – This difficulty occurs when you are unable to separate individual voices in a noisy environment, making it hard to understand people trying to speak to you.
Signs You Have a Hearing Problem
Often, hearing problems progress slowly over time, so it’s not always easy to realize when it’s time to seek treatment. Here are signs to look for:
- You have trouble hearing over the telephone.
- You find it hard to follow conversations when two or more people are talking.
- You often ask people to repeat what they’re saying.
- You need to turn up the volume on the TV—loud enough that others complain about it.
- You think other people are mumbling all the time.
- You can’t understand when women or children speak to you.
- You have a problem hearing because of background noise.
- You feel tired or stressed at having to concentrate while listening.
Reasons for Hearing Loss
If you’ve been exposed to loud noises and are worried about your hearing, talk to your health care provider about getting tested.
Hearing loss can be genetic or the result of growing older, but hearing loss can also be linked to noise exposure, something many Veterans have experienced. Gunfire, bombs, blasts, explosions, aircraft, tanks and other loud noises can contribute to different types of hearing loss. If you have been exposed to loud noises and are worried about your hearing, talk to your health care provider about getting tested.
Resources Available to Help
Depending on your specific hearing concern, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers several resources designed to help.
- Hearing aids
- Disability audiology exams
- These exams provide Veterans with medical opinions on the relationship between military service and hearing loss, tinnitus and balance disorders.
- Assessment, treatment and management of hearing loss, tinnitus and balance disorders
- For example, many times there is no cure for tinnitus, so VA helps make the sounds less noticeable or helps Veterans better cope with the condition by using cognitive behavior therapy, teaching coping skills, using group education and more.
- Assistive listening devices such as TV and telephone amplifiers
- Cochlear and other auditory implants
- Cochlear implants have two parts, a microphone worn behind the ear and a receiver inside the ear that sends information to the auditory nerve.
- VA provides this procedure and follow-up care for Veterans.
- Noise-induced hearing loss prevention services and rehabilitation services to optimize residual hearing
- Benefits and compensation
- If you were exposed to harmful noise during your military service, you may be eligible for benefits and compensation for your health-related concerns.
- Talk to your health care provider or contact your local VA Environmental Health Coordinator to get more information.
- You can also learn more by searching health concerns related to your specific time and place of service. For example, noise and hearing problems are listed under several specific wars, including the Gulf War, the Iraq War, Operation Enduring Freedom, the Vietnam War and more.
No matter what your specific concern is related to your hearing, it’s important to be evaluated and get the treatment and benefits you deserve.