Imagine this: you’re hanging out with your buddies and you can barely hear what they’re saying. You see their lips moving but you’re struggling to keep up with the conversation. Unfortunately, this is the everyday reality for more Soldiers than you may think.
The Department of Veterans Affairs reports that more than 445,000 Veterans have service-related hearing loss. Seventy-one percent of Soldiers returning from Iraq or Afghanistan have reported some level of hearing loss. Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) shares insight on five ways hearing loss can affect your life:
- Hearing loss can affect relationships. If your friends and family don’t know about your hearing loss, they can’t help you understand what they are saying. Bottom line: be upfront. Tell them the best ways to communicate with you so your relationships don’t suffer.
- Social situations can be frustrating. It’s common for individuals with hearing loss to prefer being alone than risk misunderstanding someone because they can’t hear them. Remember that you can always find a quiet place to have a one-on-one conversation. You can also use a personal Assistive Listening Device (ALD), such as a hearing aid, to help you hear better.
- Completing tasks at work can be difficult. Hearing loss can make hearing details and instructions needed to complete work tasks challenging. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers with 15 or more employees must make adjustments in the workplace for an employee with a hearing loss. Speak up, work with, and educate your employer about hearing loss so that you can perform your job better.
- Hearing loss can affect your safety. Our ears help us identify danger such as a beeping smoke alarm. Living with hearing loss means you need to rely on your other senses to alert you to sounds you might not hear. For example, an ALD such as a vibrating pager can let you know when a baby cries or a doorbell rings.
- Enjoying some of your favorite activities may become harder. You might find it difficult to hear the dialogue during a movie or other events. ALDs expand the functionality of hearing aids and cochlear implants by helping you separate the sounds you want to hear from background noise. The ADA requires most public venues to provide them. So next time you visit a movie theater, ask for one!
Although hearing loss can affect your life in numerous ways, there are just as many ways to treat and reduce the impact of hearing loss. Talk to your Medical Readiness NCO or health care professional to make an appointment for a hearing evaluation if you feel you may have some hearing loss. You’ll be surprised at all the options available—hearing aids, cochlear implants, and more! Review your options and decide what makes the most sense for you.
- Read this article on tinnitus if your ears have been ringing.
- Learn about treatment options by visiting the Army Hearing Program’s website.
- Check out HLAA’s website to learn about community meetings and other hearing loss resources that are available.