Saturday, March 15, 2008

US Troops Losing Hearing in Warzones.

AP IMPACT: US Troops Losing Hearing in Warzones

Yep - US Troops are becoming hoh or deaf due to being in a warzone. This isn't surprising in itself, but what is alarming is that its happening at the same rate of soldiers losing their hearing in WWII. Our soldiers today are issued hearing protection unlike those of WWII where there was very little regard for hearing protection in those days. But unlike the war of WWII where there were 'dogfights' in the air and epic tank battles, today our war is fought in ambushes, road side bombs, our soldiers can't just yell out 'TIME OUT! LEMME PUT MY EAR PLUGS IN! OK!", they are in a fight for their lives where they can't stop to put their ear plugs in.

They also can't wear them all the time because it may cause them to miss sounds that could be a sign of an immenent surprise attack from insurgents.

The Navy had issued specialized ear plugs that were two sided but did not issue them with instructions on their proper use, so soldiers were putting them in backwards and some cut them in half making them useless. Now they are being issued with instructions for proper use, but still for the soldiers who have lost their hearing this is a harder adjustment than a loss of a limb. Deafness is a hidden disability, you can't see that someones deaf, you can't hear that someone is deaf. The only person that can know of this disability first hand is the soldier himself who has lost his ability to hear.

Fortunately though the Pentagon has taken notice of this and has begun deploying hearing specialists to field hospitals so that soldiers can have proper care of their ears. They are given a hearing test when they return from battle and before being deployed.

But still the numbers are high and hearing loss and deafness will likely continue to be a leading disability among veterans.

I myself have always had a hearing loss - Ive always had to learn to adjust on my own but I also havent been in a life or death warzone situation either. I cannot say how hard it must be for these men and women to one day have their hearing intact and then the next they have severe ringing in their ears, or even in some cases total deafness from a blast.

I dont think of being hoh or deaf as necessarily a bad thing because it's not in my opinion and experience with it. But to have to totally re-adjust your means of communication in a matter of days can be hard. Often people cant 'see' your deafness and think your just simply not listening when in fact you cant hear at all. It's frustrating and when communication becomes ineffective within a family, a family can fall apart so for some of these soldiers they are losing more than just their hearing.

Cochlear implants won't allow these men and women to return to active duty within a warzone. SImply because a CI isnt effective enough, when a soldier can't properly hear instructions he can jeopardize his life, his buddie's lives, and ultimitely the mission they were sent out to accomplish.

Yes a soldier can return to 'active duty' with the use of a HAs or a CI, but likely they will not be deployed to a warzone, and likely they become a paper pusher for the remainder of their enlistment and will not be allowed to re-enlist as the military does not accept deaf and hoh candidates, as well as flat footed, blind, and diabetic candidates.

But what is sad is how quickly the VA forgets these veterans, and the care they receive in 'state of the art' Veteran's Hospitals is no where near the care that a civilian would receive in a civilian hospital. These are the people that have fought and risked everything for our country and this is the thanks the VA can give in return.

There have been 'experiments' with a so-called 'hearing pill' that can reduce the risk of hearing loss but a pill is not and will not be sufficiently effective in protecting these soldiers.

What I would like to see is some military money going towards the soldiers and their families to help them out - not some monkey research for a dubious hearing pill. Ah, the oxymoron of military intelligence once again runs freely.