Treating and Curing Tinnitus Is Part of Our National Commitment to Veterans

Tinnitus is the leading service-related disability among U.S. veterans, with 9.7% of all vets receiving service-related disability compensation for the condition in 2012. To better serve this deserving population, the American Tinnitus Association urges Congress, the Department of Defense, and Department of Veterans Affairs to take a more proactive stance in the treatment of tinnitus and research towards a tinnitus cure.

PORTLAND, OR – Many U.S. veterans return home with wounds that are invisible to the public. One of the most common of these internal wounds is chronic tinnitus, an auditory and neurological condition in which the patient perceives buzzing, ringing, or hissing when no external sound is present. Tinnitus is the number one service-related disability for U.S. veterans, accounting for 971,990 VA claims in 2012. The American Tinnitus Association (ATA) urges the U.S. Congress, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Department of Defense to allocate more resources to tinnitus research and management, so that we can fulfill our national commitment to honor veterans.

“The best way to support veterans—men and women who have sacrificed themselves for our country—is to heal the wounds they incurred in service. Unfortunately, when it comes to tinnitus, there is insufficient research funding and sporadic treatment services for our soldiers.” said Cara James, Executive Director of the American Tinnitus Association.  “While the Department of Veterans Affairs has made important inroads into tinnitus management, more must be done to provide relief to veterans around the country.”      

Investing in effective tinnitus management and research would also be a smart financial decision for the U.S. Armed Services and American taxpayers.  In 2012, the VA spent $1.2 billion on tinnitus-related compensation to veterans. With tinnitus claims growing at an annual rate of 15%, the total cost for service-related disability compensation alone is expected to exceed $3 billion by 2017.

“If the military and VA were to proactively spend just 15% of this amount on prevention, research and treatment, it would be a true game-changer,” said James. “This would be a worthwhile investment in the wellbeing of our service personnel and veterans, as well as a value for the American public.”     

Tinnitus is most often the result of noise exposure, either from a single, extreme impulse sound or cumulative exposure over time. Because of the unique nature of military machinery and activities, service personnel are particularly prone to such traumatic noise exposure.  Tinnitus is also a symptom closely related to Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSI.) A 2009 study found that 60% of all soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan exposed to concussive blasts developed tinnitus as a direct consequence.