Tinnitus (and other hearing problems)

Any of us who ever served an artillery piece, or even spent much time firing any sort of gun have had our hearing affected. Back when I was on 3 inch and 40mm gun crews, the only man with hearing protection was the telephone talker. The rest of us tried to get by covering our ears. (Hard to do with a 3 inch shell in your hands.) Ed.

Tinnitus is the number-one disability among Veterans and affects at least 1 in 10 American adults. People with tinnitus describe ringing sounds, a buzzing sound, a high-pitched whistle, or numerous other sounds.

The causes and effects of tinnitus vary from person to person. Because tinnitus has many causes, VA believes the approach to treating it should be interdisciplinary. And because there is no cure for tinnitus, VA’s goal is not to silence the sounds it causes, but to help patients manage their reactions.

About 80 percent of people with tinnitus are not bothered by it, because it does not affect their sleep or their ability to concentrate. Those who struggle with the noise in their head can be more prone to other mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety.

Testing for tinnitus—Tinnitus is common in Veterans, but there are no objective tests to diagnose the problem. In 2013, NCRAR researchers and researchers from Oregon Health and Science University conducted three phases of testing to try to distinguish Veterans with tinnitus from those who do not have it. Some differences were found between the groups, but also that no single test or series of tests could reliably diagnose the condition. The team concluded additional work is needed to develop a specific battery of tests for detecting the presence or absence of tinnitus with a high degree of confidence. For more information on Veterans’ hearing loss and VA treatment and research, follow this link.