For Veterans Some of the Deepest Wounds Are Invisible
Saturday, May 28, 2016
Sixty percent of veterans returning home suffer from hearing loss, tinnitus, or auditory disorders – now considered the most prevalent injury among returning veterans. This is according to the Hearing Health Foundation. Historically, hearing loss was common in soldiers exposed to active fire, with weapons powered by gunpowder, but when the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other modern weapons, came into the equation, wartime service has taken an unprecedented toll on combatants’ hearing.
While we think of the maiming war injuries that veterans live with, and the stress on the healthcare system that strives to address them, we don’t often think of tinnitus and hearing loss as one of those injuries – but just ask a veteran who suffers from them. The life changing toll of the service experience that is compounded by hearing loss is very real, and constant, impacting on one’s personal life, physical and psychological wellbeing, ability to continue to serve in the military, and impacting on one’s future work.
In 2009, the US Congress directed the establishment of the Hearing Center of Excellence, within the US Department of Defense, and partnered with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The mission includes development of a data registry to track hearing loss and auditory injuries across the armed forces, hearing research, developing best practices and clinical education, and ensuring the coordination and delivery of VA rehabilitation services to veterans with hearing loss.
While in active service, the Hearing Center of Excellence, conducts a wide variety of awareness programs, designed to prevent hearing loss. Campaigns bring across messages such as “You are not fit for duty…unless your ears are” – and - “Only fear what you cannot hear” – and - “Don’t be the weak link.” These messages stress the value of ear protection as well as provide encouragement for auditory testing and treatment.
Veterans who suffer from PTSD and/or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) often have these conditions combined with hearing loss, tinnitus and other auditory processing injuries such as dizziness and balance. In multi-trauma cases, hearing issues can often be overlooked by conditions which overshadow what might be the causative or contributing factor. That’s where education for clinicians and accurate diagnoses and treatment comes in.
Treatments can range from removal of packed ear wax to adjusting medications that may be causing hearing loss or ringing in the ears. Hearing aids might be the most popular treatment for those losses that are permanent. Other treatments include middle-ear implants, bone conductor implants, and cochlear implants. Adaptive equipment such as infrared systems for listening to television, personal amplifiers for closed areas such as traveling in the car, or outdoors can be used. These systems involve sound being transmitted to a personal receiver worn by the individual. There are also visual systems that provide alerts when the phone or doorbell rings.
Hearing aids and batteries, especially devices with newer technologies can be costly. Not all veterans will be eligible for all types of hearing aid assistance. According to the DOD, veterans who enroll for VA medical benefits are placed in one of several eligibility categories based on service-related disabilities, income level, and other factors. The good news is that all veterans with a service-connected disability for hearing loss or ear-related conditions (including tinnitus) are eligible for hearing aid services. Veterans usually require referral from their VA medical provider (e.g. primary care, mental health, etc.), and there are many regulations about different types of coverage. To find out more about what is covered, go to Military.com. In addition to services provided by the VA, veterans can also access private audiology and hearing aid centers. Many centers are willing to provide creative financial plans for veterans or discounts.
Through the Providence VA Medical Center, this clinic provides services aimed at improving quality of life, while also providing research, education, and advocacy. The clinic encourages family participation to aid rehabilitation. They have two centers, one on Atwells Avenue in Providence, and one in New Bedford. Audiology services can be accessed through most state VA Hospitals.
There are several organizations that provide guide dogs and guide dog training programs to veterans with significant hearing loss, usually determined as 30% hearing loss in both ears, or who have complete hearing loss. The national Guide Dog Foundation (GuideDog.org) and America’s VET Dogs (VetDogs.org) are two resources. There are usually significant wait times in programs providing these services.
Later in Life
Veterans with mild or even no hearing loss, when they first come out of the service, may find that hearing loss will develop as time goes by. If loss is suspected, veterans should request a hearing test from an audiologist and pursue hearing rehabilitation such as hearing aids or assistive devices.
For veterans with multiple disabilities, correcting hearing issues will only help successful transition into civilian life. In addition, communities across the country will start to see an influx of newly hearing-impaired vets in public venues such as churches, movie theaters, etc. as they begin to get the hearing help they need. Hearing testing and services, may be introduced more upon physical and psychological assessments of veterans, even if problems in hearing aren’t first mentioned or apparent in the returning veteran.
For all veterans suffering hearing loss as a result of their service, it is important that they know hearing help is available to them. Its important to identify any hearing difficulties and address them. Hearing loss may not be a visible wound, but can have a large impact on communication and interaction with others. It may also be related to other medical conditions. For all of these reasons it is important that hearing loss in our veterans is not overlooked.
This story is part of an ongoing series between GoLocal and Beltone - a sponsored content series.
Related Slideshow: 25 Ways to Celebrate Veterans in RI & New England - 2016
Operation Stand Down's Boots on the Ground Memorial
Operation Stand Down RI (OSDRI) will host the first annual Boost on the Ground for Heroes Memorial this Memorial Day weekend from Friday, May 27 at 5 p.m. to Monday May 30 at 4 p.m. Overall, OSDRI will place 6,844 boots in the field by the Temple to Music at Roger Williams Park throughout the weekend.
A formal ceremony will be held on Saturday, May 28 at 11 a.m. where Sgt. Major Todd Parisi will deliver the keynote address.
The event will honor all of Rhode Island's veterans American heroes who were killed in action defending the country during the war on terror by marking their lives with a boot, a flag and a name placard.
Foster Parade and Wreath Laying
The Foster Memorial Day Parade and wreath laying will kick off at 8:45 a..m. on Monday from the Foster Center and North roads and go to the Ben Eddy Building.
There will also be a speaking program and the unveiling of a monument that is dedicated to World War II veterans who were originally from Foster.
Flag Retirement Ceremony in Little Compton
The flag retirement ceremony will take pace at post home on the commons in Little Compton at 2 p.m.
During the event, the public is invited to bring worn flags to burn.
Following that, there will be a memorial service at Acoxet Chapel in Westport at 7 p.m.
North Providence Parade
The North Providence Memorial Day Parade begins at 1 p.m. on Monday starting from North Providence High School on Mineral Spring Avenue and ends a Governor John Notte Jr. Park.
The parade will be followed by a short ceremony and then entertainment and food in the park from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
1876 Tribute Re-enactment and Procession
Mystic Seaport in Mystic Connecticut will put on a re-enactment by costumed role-players of an 1876 tribute and procession honoring those who had fallen in the Civil War on Monday.
The reenactment includes the roll of the dead in Fishtown Chapel, observance in Greenmanville Church and a procession to Middle Wharf as well as music of the Civil War fife and drum program.
The entire day goes from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Bangor, Maine Memorial Day Parade
The Bangor Maine Memorial Day Parade will begin at 10:15 a.m. starting on Exchange Street.
The parade will proceed north on Exchange street and finish on Main Street.
Immediately following the parade there will be a ceremony at Davenport Park.
PHOTO: Davenport Park
Seekonk Memorial Day Parade
The Seekonk Memorial Day Parade kicks off at 10 a.m. on Saturday from Seekonk High School and ends at Dr. Kevin Hurley Middle School.
Following the parade, there will be a dedication of the Seekonk Veterans Memorial next tot the Seekonk Library. The dedication takes place at Noon.
Battleship Cove in Fall River
Battleship Cove in Fall River will host an observance at noon in order to honor and remember the men and women who dedicated and dedicate their lives to protecting the country.
The ceremony will consist of a the raising of the flag from half staff as well as a 21 gun salute.
The ceremony is FREE and open to the public.
Shrewsbury Memorial Day Parade
The Shrewsbury Memorial Day Parade will start at 9:30 a.m. on Monday from the Richard Carney Municipal Office building and makes several stops along the way.
The parade stops at Soldier's Statue in front of the Police Station on Maple Ave, War Memorial at the Town Center and at the Veterans Lot at Mountain View Cemetery.
At this year's ceremony, Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor, Karyn Polito will speak at the Town Center.
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