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No. 1 veteran disability related to hearing

BARSTOW • Military training or life on the battlefield is full of a range of deafening tones, including machine guns, helicopter rotors, the boom of mortars and IEDs.

These sounds can have lasting effects on soldiers and, according to a recent report from the U.S. Veterans Administration, tinnitus — a permanent noise or ringing of the ears caused by acoustic trauma — was the source of more than 10 percent of all veteran disability claims in the 2011 fiscal year.

At the Barstow Veterans Home, RN Cindy Matthews said she knew about one case.

“I haven’t seen very many cases at all,” Matthews said.

There is no cure for tinnitus but it can be treated by either identifying an underlying cause or with a device that reduces or masks the noise, according to the Mayo Clinic online.

“Patients have often been told to go home and learn to live with it, nothing can be done — and it’s really not true. A lot can be done for tinnitus,” Dr. James Henry, author of the “Progressive Tinnitus Approach” and research professor in otolaryngology at the Oregon Health & Science University, said in a press release.

One device, the SoundCure Serenade, releases soft-tones that are softer than a patient’s tinnitus to reduce rather than add to the patient’s sound burden and is customized therapy for tinnitus sufferers provided by the VA.

According to the American Tinnitus Association, the 2011 estimated cost of annual tinnitus disability payments for war veterans was more than $1 billion, while the number of veterans on the rolls for tinnitus was estimated to be more than 800,000.


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