Hearing Complaints Among Veterans Following Traumatic Brain Injury

Janelle Forsgren, SN

Many veterans suffer traumatic brain injuries (TBI) from blast injuries. The Vietnam Head Injury Study collected data from veterans with TBI to be evaluated for auditory dysfunction associated with TBI. Later, many veterans were self-reporting auditory dysfunction following only mild TBI (mTBI). mTBI is distinguished as a TBI that does not show any abnormal results on common neural imaging scans. For this reason, the authors suggest that all patients be evaluated for auditory dysfunction following TBI, no matter the time since the incident or the severity.

Self-reports showed that many veterans had “normal” hearing thresholds with a hearing test, but they struggle to understand speech in the presence of background noise, fast or long-running speech, and speech over the phone. Researchers are evaluating the effects of TBI on central auditory processing areas, such as the corpus callosum and temporal lobe. Trauma to these areas of the brain are suspected to result in auditory dysfunction.

Researchers are trying to come up with ways to improve the function of veterans with auditory impairments. They have created training programs, but have found that most Veterans don’t have time for or a desire to attend the programs. However, they have found that young and middle-aged veterans are often eager to try new technology-based solutions, such as pens that convert speech into text or hearing aids (some of which have a separate microphone that can be placed near the speaker).

Gallun, F. J., Papesh, M. A., & Lewis, M. S. (2017) Hearing complaints among veterans following traumatic brain injury. Brain Injury, 31(9), 1183-1187. doi:10.1080/02699052.2016.1274781

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