AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, tinnitus is the number one disability among veterans. Tinnitus causes ringing and buzzing sounds in the ears when the sound is present.

“This experience can be really distracting,” said the Director of Audiology at Livingston Hearing Aid Center Dr. Haley Owens. “It can interfere with sleep, it can cause anxiety, and make it difficult to concentrate. There are actually over 3 million veterans who are affected by either hearing loss, tinnitus, or both.”

According to Audiology Director at the Livingston Hearing Aid Center Dr. Haley Owens, the reason veterans experience tinnitus and hearing loss is due to loud noises associated with being a service member.

“They’re exposed to gunfire and combat situations,” said Owens. “It’s difficult, sometimes these noisy situations arise unexpectedly. So, they can’t always protect their hearing the way that they should.”

Owens shared that anytime you can protect your hearing you should do so. However, if you notice a change in your hearing or begin experiencing ringing sensations in your ears you should consult with a doctor to check your hearing as soon as possible.

Once hearing loss or tinnitus begins it can’t be cured, but it can be treated.

“The sooner we can treat it, the better you’re going to do with hearing aids,” said Owens. “As far as tinnitus goes, most people that have hearing devices or amplification, oftentimes will help alleviate or at least minimize this, this condition.”

According to Owens, untreated tinnitus and hearing loss have long-term effects on an individual’s overall health including depression, anxiety, social isolation and loneliness which has been linked to cognitive decline and dementia.

“Wearing hearing aids has also been shown to slow cognitive decline by almost 50% for some people,” said Owens. “When it comes to tinnitus, there’s anxiety and just general distraction that’s associated with that. Wearing hearing aids can help to minimize the effect of that tinnitus as well.”

The Livingston Hearing Aid Center is the VA community care provider and offers free hearing tests.

“We also offer hearing protection products, which can be customized for you custom products can help to better seal and protect the ears from loud sounds,” shared Owens. “So, these are going to work better for you than those over-the-counter products.”

Owens shared that at Livingston they consider themselves long-term partners in patients’ hearing journey.

“Hearing journeys are full of emotion,” said Owens. “Our service doesn’t stop, or partnership doesn’t stop once our patients are fit with hearing aids. We want to be there for the full journey. So, we offer aftercare after the fact for the life of the devices. Typically, it’s going to be anywhere from five to seven years.”

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