By Michele Linder
In 1980, as a newly married military spouse, I found myself almost 2,500 miles from the place I had always called home. It was the beginning of an adventure and life I had never dreamed of. It was also the point at which I took charge of the hearing loss I had been diagnosed with in grade school.
I scheduled an audiology/ENT appointment at the base hospital. Audiograms were discussed, hearing aids were ordered, ear molds were made, thus beginning a long association with various ENTs, audiologists, and hearing aid trials over my adult life.
Back then, Champus (renamed TriCare) was the military medical/healthcare entity, and as the policy was explained, I, a military dependent, was eligible for Champus to pay for hearing aids since the severity of my loss fell within the guidelines of “handicapped”. However, should hearing aids improve my hearing to the point where I no longer could be considered handicapped, then I would have to pay for the hearing aids myself.
In essence, if the hearing aids gave me benefit Champus wouldn’t pay. Even in 1980, hearing aids weren’t cheap, even less so on an enlisted Marine’s salary, and it was difficult to see the logic in government policy. I’m hopeful the policy for dependents has long since changed and improved.
In August 2013, a Back Home: The Enduring Battles Facing Post-9/11 Veterans article, War is Loud: Hearing Loss Most Common Veteran Injury, cited a 2010 spending report which stated, “…the VA buys one in five hearing aids sold annually in the U.S.”
Hearing loss is the most common disability among all veterans.
On this Veterans Day, we would like to thank all who have served their country in uniform for their service and sacrifice, and that includes those in our own ranks who often share their experience of hearing loss and tell of the care they’ve received through the VA. I’d like to say all have a positive story to tell, but unfortunately there is still room for improvement among those who actively served.
Many hearing people are in the dark about how absolutely debilitating hearing loss and tinnitus can be, but most of us here in the SayWhatClub have firsthand knowledge of the difficulty auditory injury and loss poses in the lives of those who must live with these conditions.