Written by Jacqueline Dillon (Contributing Author): Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and limb loss are the two most typical military service-related health issues that people associate with military veterans.
But for Hopatcong’s 820 military veterans and ex-service personnel, hearing loss and tinnitus are the most common military service-related health issues. For many military personnel, hearing loss forces them to cut short their career once they cannot continue in active service. While Hopatcong is proud to honor its veterans, many of them are dealing living with hearing loss - one of the most overlooked injuries of conflict.
Hearing Loss From Military Service
As many as 2.7 million veterans across the U.S. live with hearing loss or tinnitus as a result of their military service. For veterans in Hopatcong, hearing loss may have resulted from a number of confrontations with extremely loud noises during service. For example, over-exposure to loud noises from heavy equipment, tanks, gunfire, roadside bombs and aircraft can cause hearing loss and subsequent long-term hearing problems. For veterans struggling to cope with their experience of military service and the consequences of hearing loss, there are programs available in Newton Medical Center that provides individual outpatient counseling services for veterans and their families which veterans can access regardless of their discharge service or whether they have insurance.
While many people may think of tinnitus being an occasionally annoying sound in the ears, it can manifest as a constant buzz or ringing sound that interferes with veterans' daily life. It can also cause problems sleeping, stopping veterans from concentrating properly and getting in the way of other everyday activities. As a result, a loss of hearing can be devastating for many veterans, making it hard for them to maintain relationships, limiting their independence, and in some cases, leading to depression. The Sussex County Library in Newton is a Regional Resource Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing that serves Hopatcong veterans. The Center loans out assistive listening devices, audiotapes, and even baby cry signallers to veterans with hearing loss.
Support For Veterans With Hearing Loss
While losing their hearing or developing tinnitus can change the lives of military service personnel, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers two services to help Hopatcong veterans. Once enrolled for VA Health Benefits, they can receive low-cost or free hearing health care, such as hearing tests, hearing aids, or a cochlear implant. They may also qualify for monthly, tax-free health care payments. The Sussex County VA facilities in Newton also offer primary care services for Hopatcong veterans such as prescription monitoring, nutrition advice, mental health services, and other standard VA services.
Compensation for Vets
At least three million military veterans across the U.S. are currently receiving treatment for service-related hearing issues or in receipt of compensation for developing tinnitus during their time of service. Meanwhile, hundreds of veterans are filing lawsuits against the company 3M, who manufactured what they claim were 'defective earplugs' that service personnel wore for many years to protect their hearing. The veterans claim that the defective earplugs left them with a loss of balance, tinnitus, and hearing loss. Hopatcong veterans who wish to make a hearing loss compensation claim can fill out the VA 's Form 21-526 Veterans Application for Compensation. Veterans can also find out more about the federal, state and local program benefits, entitlements and services they are eligible for in the New Jersey Veterans Benefits Guide available from the Sussex County VA.
While there can be no doubt of the life-changing consequences of hearing loss and tinnitus for Hopatcong's military veterans, this often overlooked issue is beginning to get more acknowledgment and financial support.
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