By Tara Guastella
In early May, I attended the Classy awards collaborative weekend in San Diego, where hundreds of people making a difference in the nonprofit sector came together to find ways to innovate and collaborate. During one of the sessions, I learned of a startling statistic: 22 veterans commit suicide each day.
When I heard this, the first thing that popped into my mind was the fact that 60 percent of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have hearing loss or tinnitus. These conditions have consistently been the top two health complaints at Veteran Affairs Medical Centers. Hearing loss is also linked to higher rates of depression.
Since hearing problems are so prevalent among military service members, as are such mental health concerns as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, I began to wonder what services are provided to veterans to help them adjust. I soon learned that organizations like the Easter Seals Dixon Center (whom I met at the Classy awards weekend) are building collaborative networks in local communities to provide a holistic approach to veteran care.
The Dixon Center has built a network of more than 20,000 organizations and like-minded individuals, serving over 560 communities. They help communities identify and mobilize direct services to support educational and employment opportunities alongside services for healthcare, legal and financial advice, and housing. I was happy to learn that they are actively working to meet the everyday needs of veterans and their families while also anticipating their future needs.
To help veterans cope with hearing issues, we launched a veterans resource center earlier this year. We highlight various treatments for tinnitus that are being clinically tested as well as the promise of a cure for everyone with hearing loss and tinnitus, including veterans, through our Hearing Restoration Project consortium. You’ll find profiles of several veterans impacted by hearing loss and tinnitus while serving overseas, and you too can share your experience with us. We also have a page dedicated to resources where veterans can find additional hearing and health-related support. The upcoming summer issue of Hearing Health magazine will focus specifically on noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus, highlighting these health issues in the military.
With providing continued support to our veteran community, I hope to learn that the suicide rates decrease in years to come.
Since these brave men and women are disproportionately impacted by hearing problems, which likely impacts many other aspects of their lives, the team at HHF wishes to honor all of our veterans this Memorial Day.