Military Tinnitus: Issues Unresolved[imwb_socialbuzz] By John On September 7, 2011 Under Tinnitus
Exposure to high intensity noise is inevitable for people working in the military. Those exposed in areas of combat are more susceptible to damage caused by high decibel noises. The consequences would be hearing loss and tinnitus. The degree of exposure determines whether one will sustain temporary or permanent damage. Military tinnitus results from repeated exposure to gunshot noises and blasts. Those in combat are more prone to develop the condition. However, not only the noises caused by weapons pose risk to the hearing but also the noises caused by vehicles and machinery. What we know is that the number of military men having hearing problems is increasing. Tinnitus and hearing impairment brought about by their job can in turn make them unfit for the job.
One of the main issues researchers face in studying the incidence of tinnitus among military servicemen is the lack of data. The data which could lead us to the facts on the prevalence of tinnitus and hearing loss in this sector are missing. While the number of military retirees with tinnitus and hearing problems is compelling, there is no way to establish the connection between noise exposure during military service and hearing problems.
One challenge is dismissing age as a factor. Military retirees in their 60s or 70s show signs of tinnitus and hearing impairment that people at these ages have. The so-called noise-induced tinnitus can occur as a product of aging, the cumulative damage brought about by decades of exposure to noise. Much of the data gathered show only the development of hearing problems in the latter years. There is also no research done to assess the lifestyle of these people outside the military because there is a possibility that these people may have been exposed to damaging noises somewhere else.
The lack of solid data to back up the assumption that military service resulted in military tinnitus and hearing loss presents a major problem for military retirees who claim government assistance due to noise-induced hearing damage resulting from years of working within “noisy” military environment. You cannot just claim that you worked for the military and suffered from tinnitus because of that; and then file for legal financial aid. A detailed history should be looked into, and audiometric data should be collected. The association between ringing in ear and hearing impairment and noise exposure during military service should be well ascertained.
Right now there are millions of veterans who receive disability compensation. Hearing problems (which include tinnitus and hearing loss) account for about 10% of the total cases of disabilities that military retirees suffer from. The number of cases makes hearing disabilities the third most common type of disabilities among veterans. By this time, hundreds of thousands of veterans receive compensation for tinnitus, hearing loss, and other audiological problems.
There are multiple sources of noise in the military, most of which are equipment used in the battlefield. Weapons are the common sources of hazardous noise. Vehicle and aircraft engines also generate unsafe levels of noise, to which military servicemen are continually exposed. These noises run above 85 decibels, the upper limit of safe noise or sound intensity. Noises generated by vehicle engines can be around that intensity. You can be exposed to 85-dB noise for a maximum of 8 hours. Hearing damage starts to occur after that time. Of course, that is just the average because people have different tolerances to noises. Aircraft engines, gunshots, and blasts generate noise much louder than that. As the intensity of sound goes up, the time you should spend around it should decrease. For instance, the noise generated by a chainsaw is roughly around 95 dB. At this intensity, more than 2 hours of exposure can result in damage to the hearing. Noise generated by gunshot and jet plane engine can reach intensities above 130 dB. The human ears are not made to tolerate such level of sound. Instant damage can occur during exposure to gunshots and blasts. Military men are frequently exposed to these levels of noises during the course of their occupation. Hence, it is no wonder that many of them suffer from tinnitus and hearing problems at some point in their lives. Some are even forced to quit their jobs because of significant hearing loss and tinnitus.
Military servicemen should have their hearing assessed every year. Early signs of hearing impairment and tinnitus may not be noticeable, and only standard tests can detect them. Education is vital to the preservation of the hearing of these people. Moreover, mitigating noise hazard brought about by the job is essential. Many people in the military do not know when a noise becomes hazardous. They are already exposed to these noises long before they could complain. They only realize the importance of taking care of their hearing when it’s too late. Efforts to spread campaign regarding occupational noise hazard in the military should be increased. Well, it is not enough to give these people earmuffs. Someone has to tell them when to wear these things.