Targeting Hearing Loss: A Call to Arms for Veterans’ Wellbeing

Hearing Australia is calling on veterans to ‘take aim’ at hearing loss, and in turn help address wellbeing, loneliness and social isolation.

“Military personnel are at a higher risk of noise-induced hearing loss because they’re exposed to high-level noise such as gunfire, explosives and machinery. They can be exposed to dangerous decibel levels of 140dB or more, which can cause irreversible damage in seconds,” says Hearing Australia Principal Audiologist, Karen Hirschausen.

“One demographic that’s most affected by hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears), are veterans. That’s why we’re urging past and current personnel to not ignore any signs showing they might have damage. Hearing loss can have far-reaching consequences on someone’s life; it can affect their personal life, social life and working life, and can increase loneliness and social isolation.”

According to a report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), nearly 1 in 10 veterans were socially isolated and nearly 1 in 5 were lonely, which Karen says is a major concern. “As veterans with hearing loss may be at an increased risk for a range of wellbeing issues that affect their community, it’s crucial they get the support they need to have good hearing health, such as access to regular hearing checks and hearing aids when appropriate,” she says.

“Hearing loss affects people in different ways, and we have a range of solutions to help people based on their needs and lifestyle. We offer devices that are easy to use, provide clear and natural sound, feature the latest technology, and we also have discreet options. We support our clients in finding the right solution for them so they can start to experience better hearing health outcomes and the benefits this brings to their general health and wellbeing.”

Hearing Australia’s research division, the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL), recently conducted research⁵ focusing on the impact of social isolation and loneliness in elderly adults and the role that hearing loss and the use of hearing aids play. It found that hearing loss increases the risk of elderly adults feeling lonely, and the risk increases if hearing problems affect their ability to communicate and take part in everyday activities with other people. A key message from the NAL study is that using hearing aids regularly can reduce the risk of loneliness.

“The research suggests that looking after your hearing doesn’t just help elderly adults to hear sound but can also improve their mental wellbeing,” adds Karen. “In Australia, more than 1.3 million people live with a hearing condition that could have been prevented. This highlights the importance of taking a proactive approach to hearing health for Australians who work in noisy environments, such as Defence Force personnel.”