Ask anyone to name the professions in which hearing loss poses a profound threat and it might take a while before someone names the military. In fact, veterans are one of the leading populations susceptible to noise-induced hearing loss as a result of their profession.
Recently, a Nashville-based organization, Songs for Sound, helped to address this problem by providing a free hearing health clinic to the 100th American Legion National Convention last month with their #HEARtheMUSIC Project.
Hearing loss and veterans
Hearing loss — along with tinnitus — is the second most reported service-connected disabilities. To complicate matters, the tasks and objectives of military assignments often make it impossible to bypass the dangerously loud sounds personnel are exposed to. They have little choice but to remain in the too-noisy environments that contribute to hearing damage until their mission is fulfilled.
The quiet danger of hearing loss
More than 30 million Americans over the age of 12 suffers from some type of hearing loss. It’s the third largest public health concern in this country. It sometimes takes a back burner to other life-threatening issues such as heart disease or diabetes. But, the impact of hearing loss on quality of life can be profound. Mental and emotional health declines are often associated with hearing loss, particularly when hearing loss remains undiagnosed or untreated. Research also tells us that hearing loss can be associated with tremendously serious conditions, such as cognitive decline, depression, increased risk of dementia, poor balance, hospitalizations and early mortality.
Diagnosing hearing loss
Because hearing loss can occur naturally along with the normal aging process, many of us are quick to accept its ramifications on our lives. It’s a cultural norm for the medical profession to be more tolerant of hearing loss, with less pressure put on intervention or treatment. We are often too quick to dismiss hearing loss as something we can “live with.” Most people with hearing loss wait as much as a decade before seeking treatment.
Songs for Sound founder, Jaime Vernon, aims to greatly reduce the lag time in diagnosis and treatment. Her advocacy is a result of her experience in seeking treatment for her deaf child, Lexi. As a mother and advocate for Lexi, she encountered roadblocks and delays while investigating a path to better hearing for her daughter. “Looking back,” she says, “had I had a roadmap for Lexi to hear, she could have been implanted and developed language even sooner. I want that for everyone. All ages, all shapes and sizes, but especially for these men and women who have given our country so much.”
The #HEARtheMUSIC Project provides service with a mobile hearing health clinic. Supported by Cochlear Americas, the clinic is a traveling diagnostic center, offering free hearing screenings and providing intervention information. In the past two and a half years in which #HEARtheMUSIC has been operating, over 18,000 free hearing screenings have been given. Of those screenings, 50% of people were referred out to audiologists for further testing.
By making hearing screenings simple and free, Songs for Sound’s #HEARtheMUSIC Project has positively impacted the hearing lives of thousands! That’s a tremendous number, particularly when you consider that many of those people might not have taken the time or financial burden to have their hearing screened. It’s also, however, a drop in the bucket when we consider that the millions of Americans who live with undiagnosed hearing loss.
Continue to make healthy hearing a priority
Particularly alarming is that of the Senior Veterans screened, 85% were referred on for further testing. That’s a vast majority of that specific population, already known to be at risk for hearing loss. There needs to be better access to hearing health information and screening for all. We might ask ourselves why we as a society are failing to prioritize healthy hearing and in what ways we can work to change that. In our own lives, we can get our hearing tested annually. We can also urge friends and family members to do the same, because the burden of hearing loss doesn’t fall solely on the person afflicted.
The #HEARtheMUSIC Project runs entirely on sponsorships and donations. To support the mission, click here.
Visit Us at Carolina Speech and Hearing
We are proud to offer the best hearing services for the servicemen and women who have served us. If you are suffering from hearing loss or tinnitus, look no further than Carolina Speech and Hearing. Our team provides comprehensive hearing services and hearing aid fittings.