There are countless visual cues that Remembrance Day is on its way: We put on our poppies, the flag is flown high. Those who have served wear their colors, honors, and military memorabilia proudly. But have you ever thought about the effects of war you can’t see?
Hearing Loss: An Invisible Disability.1
Hearing loss is considered a disability, but it’s one we can’t always see. In a study released by the Deafness Research Foundation and the U.K. Ministry of Defence, nearly 69% of U.K. troops returning from Afghanistan had suffered hearing loss due to combat noise. Many combat troops complained of tinnitus, some of complete deafness.
And more than two-thirds of British troops returning from Afghanistan suffer from severe noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).2Sudden NIHL from gunfire and explosions is the No.1 disability caused by combat in current wars.3
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders and the National Institutes of Health report about a quarter of adults ages 65 and older have disabling hearing loss.4This disability is often something that’s overlooked as you cannot see the impacts right away. While everyone’s experiences with injuries and impacts from war are different, it can be argued that the affects of hearing loss are just as disabling as other injuries sustained.
Those affected by hearing loss may have difficulty explaining how their lives have changed since they began to lose their hearing. Hearing loss influences your mental and physical health in a variety of ways. It can affect your social, economic, academic, and personal successes, developing slowly over time and leading to more disruptive, life-altering diseases. As a whole, hearing loss negatively affects overall quality of life, social life, and mental and physical well-being.
Those with hearing loss demonstrated a 30% to 40% more accelerated rate of cognitive decline.5
Loss of household earnings due to hearing loss could be as high as $30,000 per year.6
Individuals with some level of hearing loss report greater dissatisfaction with their friendships, family life, health, and financial situation than individuals without hearing loss.7
What Is NIHL?
Hearing loss happens for many reasons, one of them being exposure to loud noise (NIHL). Repeated exposure to sound levels above 85 decibels can cause permanent hearing loss. Usually high-frequency sounds are the first to go. This means you may be unable to hear s, f, sh, ch, h, or soft c sounds.
The damage done to the ears by exposure to loud noise is dependent upon the decibel level (the sound pressure) and the length of time you’re exposed. Loud music destroys the fine hairs in your ear responsible for stimulating auditory nerve fibers. When these hairs are damaged, they’re damaged permanently. Typically, 85 decibels (the sound of a bulldozer idling) is the level at which damage begins. Almost all firearms create noise that is over the 140-decibel (dB) level. A small .22-caliber rifle can produce noise around 140 dB, while big-bore rifles and pistols can produce sound over 175 dB.8
Hearing loss isn’t always sudden; it’s cumulative, meaning repeated noise exposure while in the field and even trainings all combine to slowly damage hearing. Most won’t notice the loss until it’s so apparent that they have no choice but to fix it.
Serve and Protect
When it does come time to see a hearing professional or you’d like to check up on your hearing, remember that a hearing test isn’t enough: The cause of the hearing loss cannot be determined from an audiogram alone. Your medical history, a physical exam, and relevant test results must be considered along with the audiogram findings.
This is why it’s so important to seek a hearing professional when getting help with your hearing.When seeking disability help for your hearing loss, Veterans Affairs Canada prefers that audiograms submitted to the department for entitlement or assessment purposes be performed by a clinical/licensed/certified/registered audiologist.9
If you or someone you know is experiencing NIHL or hearing loss complications,schedule a consultation with us today. We have the tools, drive, and compassion needed to offer the help necessary to live a full life. To our veterans and their families, thank you for your service — past, present, and future. re) and the length of time you’re exposed. Loud music destroys the fine hairs in your ear responsible for stimulating auditory nerve fibers. When these hairs are damaged, they’re damaged permanently. Typically, 85 decibels (the sound of a bulldozer idling) is the level at which damage begins. Almost all firearms create noise that is over the 140-decibel (dB) level. A small .22-caliber rifle can produce noise around 140 dB, while big-bore rifles and pistols can produce sound over 175 dB.8
- Pearson, Chris (Surg. Cdr., RN). “The Extent of Operational NIHL.” http://www.deafnessresearch.org.uk/docs/research/mod/SurgCdrPearson.pdf
- Lin FR, et al. Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline in Older Adults. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2013;173(4):293–299.