Hearing loss rampant among veterans
FORT BRAGG, N.C. — On his two deployments to Iraq with the 18th Airborne Corps, Spc. Jon Michael Cripps spent more time keeping the Army's computers running than he did in combat, but he can't forget what he heard.
The constant roar of generators along with the hum of computer servers and the high-powered air conditioners required to cool them damaged Cripps' hearing and left an intermittent ringing in his ears.
“You think about maybe getting wounded in battle, getting those kinds of scars,” Cripps said after his annual hearing test at a health center on post recently. “Losing your hearing is just not something you think about.”
But it's a widespread problem that affects the quality of service members' lives now and will worsen in decades to come. And it's largely preventable.
At least a fourth of soldiers who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan show some hearing loss, Army audiologists say, and even those who don't deploy often are exposed to constant or concussive noises in their work or training that can cause hearing loss or tinnitus, a ringing in the ears.
Among veterans, tinnitus and hearing loss are the most common service-connected disabilities, with more than 1.5 million veterans receiving compensation for those problems at the end of 2011. Of about 805,000 veterans who began receiving disability compensation that year, nearly 148,000 were for tinnitus or hearing loss, according to a recent VA report. By comparison, the next most prevalent disability was post-traumatic stress disorder, for which about 42,700 veterans began receiving compensation in 2011.
The military tries to prevent hearing loss among active-duty soldiers, and for those who find themselves straining to hear years after they're out of service, the Department of Veterans Affairs provides hearing aids. At both ends of the spectrum, audiologists find resistance among those they're trying to help.
“For us, a lot of the work is in education,” said Capt. Latisha Scott, an Army audiologist at Fort Bragg. “Having the equipment to prevent hearing loss is not the problem. It's getting the soldiers to buy into using it.”
Cripps admits he often did not wear the ear protection he was issued while he was in Iraq, for the same reason other soldiers don't. They worry earplugs might dull their senses, saving their hearing but maybe costing their lives.
“You want to hear the whistling of the mortars,” Cripps said, “before you hear the boom.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Scientists hope tiny robotic bee’s big dreams take flight
- National Guard leaves Ferguson as protests over shooting wane
- Boston Marathon suspect’s friend guilty of obstruction
- Police say couple wanted Amish girls for slaves
- Health care data breaches hit 30M patients and counting
- EPA cites risks from air toxics in urban areas, improvements
- Fla. ban on gay marriage upended