By Morgan Leppla
Can you guess the number one and two war wounds among veterans? Tinnitus and hearing loss, respectively.
Sixty percent of vets return from war with hearing loss and tinnitus. Enlisted for 11 years, Sergeant Nathan Heltzel has a 40 percent hearing loss in his left ear, a 30 percent hearing loss in his right ear, and tinnitus that is a direct result of gunfire and loud jet engines on flight line duty.
He recalls that during his time in the military from 1995 to 2009 there technically was a requirement to wear ear protection, but hearing the radio, team, and anything else that could be advantageous was prioritized over protection, so it was not enforced.
He left service because of hearing loss and has learned to manage tinnitus on his own, using a white-noise machine to mask ringing sounds while he sleeps.
Another serviceman, Major Richard Uzuanis, says it is not in military culture to address things that could impact one’s ability to perform duties and missions, so many people ignore their hearing loss or tinnitus. Uzuanis adds that it contributes to the overall safety of troops if people are hearing clearly.
Hearing Health Foundation wants to thank service members and veterans and remind them that they are disproportionately at risk for sustaining hearing loss and tinnitus. Hearing loss affects how one conducts missions and follows instructions. Take precautions and protect your ears from the dangers of noise, to ensure your safety, and the safety of those around you.
Lastly, check out our veterans’ resources page today!