Veterans who come back from deployments may be confronted with a variety of physical challenges that derive from conditions that they encounter overseas. One of the issues that veterans have encountered is that many have suffered some form of hearing loss. While soldiers are given earplugs to protect their hearing while they are in theater overseas, these earplugs have not always worked as intended, and soldiers have experienced long-term hearing loss.
Beyond defective earplugs, veterans experience numerous issues with regard to their hearing when they return from deployments. For example, veterans have issues with balance and dizziness. This could be from combat or any other loud and disorienting conditions that they experience while in a combat environment. In general, overseas deployments are hectic and often have deafening noises, whether it is combat or other heavy equipment. Over half of combat soldiers experience some form of hearing loss. This same noise can be experienced when servicemembers are working in an aircraft hangar or near any aircraft. In some instances, the sound of a blast will cause servicemembers to permanently lose some degree of their hearing. Finally, exposure to some toxic and hazardous substances have the potential to cause hearing loss. In fact, issues with hearing are the most common service-connected disability among veterans.
According the the VA, as of 2014, there were nearly a million veterans who were receiving disability compensation because of hearing loss. By 2017, that number had increased to 1.17 million. The rate of hearing loss among soldiers as well as the number of cases has increased dramatically since 9/11 with the increase in deployments overseas. VA policy is that veterans can receive audiology services and they are all covered by the government at no cost to the veteran. In addition, hearing aids are covered for veterans who have lost some hearing. What most people do not know is that one in every five hearing aids that is bought in the United States is purchased by the VA.
When veterans believe that they are experiencing hearing loss, they are cared for by audiologists that are provided by the Veterans Administration. Many VA sites have audiologists on staff to deal with veterans hearing issues. The VA employs over 1,000 audiologists across the country to treat veterans across a variety of specialties. The VA offers a wide selection of services for veterans who are suffering from hearing loss, including diagnosis and treatment and any veteran is eligible to avail themselves of these services. In addition to hearing aids, the VA is able to provide veterans with more advanced technology including cochlear implants and bone-anchored hearing aids. Further, the VA continues to fund extensive research into both the causes and treatment of hearing loss.
The unfortunate part of the equation is that some hearing loss is preventable through the use of the proper protective equipment. However, that equipment has not always worked as intended, leading veterans to experience problems and the United States Government to incur high obligations to compensate veterans. Some combat soldiers prefer not to wear ear protection at all since they believe that it detracts from their situational awareness. These soldiers believe that they need to hear as much as possible in order to stay safe. In recent years, there have been new initiatives from the service branches to decrease instances of hearing loss among soldiers. In recent years, the Army has begun outfitting soldiers with the Tactical Communication and Protective System in order to prevent hearing loss among soldiers.