Hearing loss is a preventable condition that has affected at least twenty-five percent of soldiers who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, and it is not solely a combat-related condition. Fort Bragg Spec. Jon Michael Cripps of the 18th Airborne Corps, whose hearing loss is attributed to the constant noise of computers, generators, and air conditioners states “You think about maybe getting wounded in battle, getting those kinds of scars,” but “Losing your hearing is just not something you think about.” Cripps’s experience is consistent with what specialists see, in that most hearing loss and tinnitus in the military are injuries that are noise-induced. The military tries to prevent hearing loss among active-duty soldiers by educating the soldiers and providing protective gear, but according to Capt. Latisha Scott, an Army audiologist at Fort Bragg, “Having the equipment to prevent hearing loss is not the problem. It’s getting the soldiers to buy into using it.”
Hearing loss and tinnitus are the most common service-connected disabilities, with more than 1.5 million veterans receiving compensation for those problems at the end of 2011. The VA offers hearing aids to nearly every veteran who needs them at little or no cost, and recent improvements in technology allow hearing aid adjustments to be done remotely, preventing the need for veterans to travel to large VA clinics to receive services.