"Staggering" hearing loss among troops

March 10, 2008 3:20:57 PM PDT
The military is redoubling efforts to protect U-S forces from noise, now that a growing number of them are coming home with hearing problems.

Hearing damage has become the number one disability of U-S troops coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Nearly 60-thousand of the one million war veterans are collecting disability for hearing loss, and another 70-thousand are disabled due to tinnitus, or ringing in the ears.

Theresa Schulz, a former audiologist with the Air Force, calls the numbers "staggering."

The epidemic is due in part to the insurgents' use of roadside bombs and ambushes, which don't give troops time to use their military-issued ear protection.

The sheer number of injuries, and their nature - particularly tinnitus - came as a surprise to military medical experts.