Unseen Toll of War: Hearing Loss

It's not visible like an amputated limb, or as discussed as Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. But noise-induced hearing loss is a growing medical issue among American troops. And with 12.3 percent returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan with significant hearing loss, it's a problem that's costing the U.S. government about $1 billion a year to treat.

"Improvised explosive devices, aircraft and other weaponry being used by the military are frankly deafening our troops," says Michael D. Seidman, M.D., director of the Division of Otologic/Neurotologic Surgery in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery at Henry Ford Hospital.

In San Diego this week, Dr. Seidman will present several strategies for prevention and treatment for soldiers with noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command/Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center's meeting, "Acoustic Trauma Solutions for the War Fighter." The meeting is a U.S. military initiative to gather information to help men and women in the armed forces with hearing issues.

Noise-induced hearing loss, he says, doesn't just impact a person's ability to hear; it can cause balance issues, make it difficult to sleep and communicate, and even raise the risk for heart disease by increasing a person's blood pressure, lipids and blood sugar.

As part of his presentation, Dr. Seidman will explain how noise-induced hearing loss occurs, as well as tinnitus-related traumatic brain injury, based on research from Wayne State University's Jinsheng Zhang, Ph.D.

In addition, Dr. Seidman will highlight research co-authored by Henry Ford Hospital bioscientific senior researcher Susan Bowyer, Ph.D., that found magnetoencephalography (or MEG, an imaging technique) can be used to pinpoint the location of tinnitus in the brain.

Dr. Seidman previously presented to Congress about the debilitating and devastating effects of noise-induced hearing loss among soldiers returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Afghanistan.

Contact: Krista Hopson
khopson1@hfhs.org