Soldiers Losing Hearing, Losing Silence

Two bad things about losing your hearing — the loss of sound and the loss of silence. A lot of us who are older, especially if we listened to Lou Miami and the Cosmetix at The Last Call, have tinnitus.

I noticed it bad on a vacation in the woods. No more silence, just a constant static that is much worse when the ambient noise level is down. I would give a lot to make it go away, but I’m lucky. It doesn’t interfere with my life, it doesn’t bring back bad memories, it hasn’t gotten worse and I’m old. At least it didn’t start in my 20′s.

AP SAN DIEGO – Large numbers of soldiers and Marines caught in roadside bombings and firefights in Iraq and Afghanistan are coming home with permanent hearing loss and ringing in their ears, prompting the military to redouble its efforts to protect the troops from noise.

Hearing damage is the No. 1 disability in the war on terror, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, and some experts say the true toll could take decades to become clear. Nearly 70,000 of the more than 1.3 million troops who have served in the two war zones are collecting disability for tinnitus, a potentially debilitating ringing in the ears, and more than 58,000 are on disability for hearing loss, the VA said.

Sixty percent of U.S. personnel exposed to blasts suffer from permanent hearing loss, and 49 percent also suffer from tinnitus, according to military audiology reports. The hearing damage ranges from mild, such as an inability to hear whispers or low pitches, to severe, including total deafness or a constant loud ringing that destroys the ability to concentrate. There is no known cure for tinnitus or hearing loss.

The number of servicemen and servicewomen on disability because of hearing damage is expected to grow 18 percent a year, with payments totaling $1.1 billion annually by 2011, according to an analysis of VA data by the American Tinnitus Association. Anyone with at least a 10 percent loss in hearing qualifies for disability. (the rest of the story)

It’s another cruel cost of this war. Our volunteer military represents only a small part of our population. Our political climate today rewards cuts in benefits to the most vulnerable. Partial deafness is a disability that doesn’t show. You have to feel it to know what it’s like. Veterans who have lost their hearing deserve help and support. It’s a real loss to never hear silence again.

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4 responses

  1. The Rev Jerry Gloryhole

    I too have tinnitus, made exponentially worse last year by a dentist with a heavy drill hand. That, and too much Ramones. Pretty frightening to consider.
    Well, that makes teaching sign another growth industry to go along with prison-building. Family values in action!

  2. Indeed. the sound of silence is deafening. enjoy your work here.

  3. The New York Times science section has an article about new cures for tinnitus which sound to me almost exactly like the old ones. Create some neutral sound to drown out the internal static. I was hoping for something better, especially since there are so many coming back from Iraq with hearing damage.

  4. Soldiers losing hearing, losing silence…

    Tinnitus is a loud static hiss that never goes away. It can cause more misery than hearing loss alone. There’s no cure for tinnitus. Generally an older person’s problem, our young troops are coming back with deafness and tormenting noise that won’t …

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