While Veterans Day is a time-honored tradition that comes once a year, gratitude for our nation's veterans is a year-round act of remembrance. Serving our veterans who have been impacted by hearing loss remains a particular focus for Ava. The impact of assistive technology for communication enhancement for those who are Deaf and hard-of-hearing is significant and essential for human connection and employment opportunity.
Image Source: San Diego Union Tribune
Countless veterans navigate the challenges of combat-induced hearing loss and tinnitus as a result of their time spent protecting our great nation. Join Ava and Veteran Affairs in taking the opportunity to highlight ways to support veterans who are dealing with hearing loss or varying degrees of Deafness.
Technological solutions such as Ava's live caption application are tools that assist with accessibility. Mobile real-time transcription capability can help with communication barriers that arise from hearing impairment. Raising awareness of the issues for hard-of-hearing and Deaf people and also offering a solution is the activism Ava strives to perpetuate.
Recognizing Veterans Hearing Loss Issues
Many are surprised to discover that tinnitus and hearing loss are respectively the first and second most prominent health conditions affecting those who have served in the military. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), these veterans are potentially contending with two broad categories of hearing loss: conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss. And a combination of both conditions are quite prevalent.
Image Source: Health Partners
Understanding the meaning of these terms is important. Conductive hearing loss describes damage to the eardrum and middle ear, while sensorineural hearing loss describes damage to the inner ear and the auditory nerve. The former can often be reversed with medication or surgery. The latter is permanent, but potentially manageable with the assistance of hearing aids and other tools.
In addition to the two types of hearing loss, an even greater number of veterans suffer from tinnitus. Tinnitus is experienced as a drone, buzz or ringing in the ears that can be accompanied by balance issues. In turn, these symptoms can cause difficulty in day-to-day functionality, sleep and concentration.
Image Source: U.S. Army
Some veterans may experience Auditory Processing Disorder, which makes it challenging to understand speech even if hearing seems to be unharmed. Together, these various conditions highlight that veterans represent a significant subsection of Deaf culture as well as those experiencing life-altering auditory challenges.
Complexities of Combat-Induced Auditory Damage
While it comes as no surprise that military service members are exposed to a greater risk of hearing loss than the average civilian, for many veterans, there is more to the story.
Certainly, proximity to artillery fire, explosives and heavy machinery increases the threat of hearing impairment.That fact known, between the years of 2002 and 2015, countless American military service members deployed were issued with dangerously defective dual-ended military earplugs.
As lawsuits against the manufacturing company, 3M Earplugs, remain ongoing, provisions made to support our brave service men and women are imperative. It is reported that the VA buys one in five hearing aids sold annually in the U.S. Assistive technology such as hearing aids and live caption applications reduce communication obstacles for those impacted by this massive failure to protect our troops.
Image Source: Orange County Physicians’ Hearing Services
Many veterans are unaware of the disability compensation, financial aid or possibility to join the 3M Earplugs lawsuit options that are available to them. Additionally, they may also be unaware of the accessible and affordable support solutions like Ava to help with everyday communication. Comprehensive hearing healthcare, innovative rehabilitation programs and speech pathology services present various methods of veteran support, and should also be known and accessible.
Assistive Technology & Accessible Solutions for Hearing Loss
Hearing loss and the presence of tinnitus can have substantial effects for veterans in areas of employment, education, healthcare and relationships with friends and family. When addressing these challenges, the place to start means exploring eligibility for benefits from the VA and accessing practical tools for daily living.
Image Source: Healthy Hearing
Those navigating combat-induced hearing loss can explore hearing aids designed to pick up and amplify sound, or cochlear implants created to assist those with severe to profound hearing loss. In cases of tinnitus, hearing aids, medication, sound therapy and even cognitive behavioral therapy can provide much-needed relief. The VA also offers a program to help veterans manage this complex condition.
Going further, there is exceptional value to be found in providing sign language support and closed captioning resources to veterans impacted by combat-induced hearing loss. Those who work with or serve impacted veterans in any setting can benefit from contemporary captioning software. From business meetings, conference calls, classes and appointments to any and all day-to-day interactions, real-time speech-to-text transcription technology should be fast, accurate and easily accessible.
Image Source: Google
Resources for Veterans Suffering from Hearing Loss & Tinnitus
The conditions of hearing loss and tinnitus can greatly impact the quality of life for those who have served in the military. However, there are various resources available to help manage and cope with these challenges. In this blog post, we'll explore five key resources that provide support, treatment, and assistance for veterans struggling with hearing loss and tinnitus.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) - Providing Comprehensive Support
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is the primary resource for veterans experiencing hearing loss and tinnitus. The VA offers comprehensive hearing healthcare services, including audiological evaluations, hearing aids, and cochlear implants. Additionally, the VA has a Tinnitus Management Program that provides education, counseling, and therapeutic sound generators for veterans suffering from tinnitus. To access these services, veterans must first enroll in the VA healthcare system.
- The American Tinnitus Association (ATA) - A Valuable Source of Information
The American Tinnitus Association (ATA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing tinnitus research, support, and education. They offer various resources to help individuals understand and manage tinnitus, including educational materials, webinars, and a comprehensive directory of healthcare providers who specialize in tinnitus treatment. Veterans can also connect with others who have tinnitus through the ATA's online community, offering a valuable support network for coping with this condition.
- Disabled American Veterans (DAV) - Advocacy and Assistance
Disabled American Veterans (DAV) is a non-profit organization that offers support and advocacy for disabled veterans. DAV can assist veterans in filing claims for hearing loss and tinnitus with the VA, ensuring they receive the benefits they are entitled to. Additionally, DAV provides resources and information on living with hearing loss and tinnitus, as well as a nationwide network of support groups for veterans with various disabilities.
- Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) - Resources and Support for Individuals with Hearing Loss
The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) is a non-profit organization that provides information, education, and support for individuals with hearing loss. HLAA offers various resources for veterans, including online forums, webinars, and local chapters where veterans can connect with others who have hearing loss. They also provide information on the latest hearing aid technology and assistive devices, helping veterans make informed decisions about their hearing healthcare.
- Heroes With Hearing Loss - A Community for Veterans with Hearing Challenges
Heroes With Hearing Loss is a program created by the non-profit organization, Hamilton CapTel, to support veterans with hearing loss and tinnitus. They provide resources and information to help veterans understand their hearing challenges, as well as a community where veterans can connect with others who are facing similar issues. Heroes With Hearing Loss also offers a free captioned telephone service for veterans with hearing loss, enabling them to communicate more easily over the phone.
By exploring available resources, veterans can better manage their hearing challenges, maintain their independence, and improve their overall quality of life. Remember, you're not alone in this journey - reach out to these organizations and connect with fellow veterans who understand your unique experiences.
Serving & Honoring Our Veterans
Veterans dealing with service connected hearing loss in one or both ears due to severe noise exposure and blast exposure without adequate hearing protection have our support. VA disability compensation to receive hearing aid care and other VA benefits guarantee medical treatment for hearing loss and tinnitus, hearing tests, cochlear implants, hearing aids and other medical services connected to severe hearing loss. Veterans affairs and VA research has extensive data on military noise exposure and veteran's hearing loss that leads to difficulty understanding speech, reduced hearing thresholds, ringing sounds, sensitivity to loud sounds and loud noises, auditory processing disorder, and early age related hearing loss.
The call-to-action to support our veterans navigating accessibility obstacles is clear for many businesses, organizations and individuals. Combat-induced hearing loss impacts the lives of Veterans on a variety of fronts including communication. Recognizing and understanding the issues for those who are hard-of-hearing, and ensuring assistive technology options are known is one way to help.
By growing awareness of the hearing-related challenges our veterans face and the accessible solutions at our collective fingertips, improving lives with assistive technology is not only possible, but also our collective duty.