Washington, DC. Many veterans returning from war have injuries that are not visible. They’re dealing with hearing loss. Army veteran Rebecca Nava sometimes has trouble hearing her daughter. “I have to be able to listen to her and hear what she has to tell me,” said Nava.
Nava was often exposed to loud noises during her tour in Iraq that have left her with hearing loss and tinnitus – a ringing in her ears. “I’m trying to sleep or take a nap or concentrate on something and it’s all you hear is the ringing,” she said.
Lt. Col Mark Packer of the US Department of Defense Hearing Center of Excellence says 60 percent of those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have damaged hearing. “The total number over the decade for the current conflicts are 840 thousand members with tinnitus, and just over 700 thousand with hearing loss which are the number one and two disabilities,” said Packer.
Experts say training to prevent hearing problems needs to start as soon as a person enters the military. But ear protection can be inconvenient in combat, and some noises are so loud that protection won’t help.
“We have Army, Navy, Air Force programs that are looking at developing the policies, identifying the best standards to best prevent hearing loss,” said Packer.
Nava is now studying Business Administration. She wears hearing aids, but she still struggles. “I try to sit up close in the classroom, I try to like focus really hard and read the professors lips as they’re talking,” she said.
She hopes other veterans listen to her story and get help for their hearing like she did.