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Vice President’s Report, March/April 2024 -   -  

The VA and Treating Hearing Loss

I am aware that many members express concerns about topics that the National Officers address. In the November/December issue my column on the VA’s “personnel crisis” sparked discussion. In the column I highlighted the challenges the VA faces hiring medical personnel.

Ron Lovel from Michigan, who receives care at the Oscar G. Johnson Medical Center in Iron Mountain, expressed concerns about what I said in the column. He felt that by not specifying which VA facility I had issues with, I inadvertently generalized the problem, affecting the reputation of all VA hospitals.

I want to clarify that my intention was not to disparage all VA facilities, but to shed light on the understaffing issue that many face. I appreciate Ron Lovel’s input and his positive experiences at the Oscar G. Johnson VAMC.

The understaffing problem in the VA leads to difficulties in scheduling appointments for care. However, telemedicine has become the norm in several areas, addressing some of these challenges. There’s a noticeable shortage of doctors, not only in the VA but also in private practice, leading to increased reliance on PAs and RNs. While these professionals perform admirably, the need for direct treatment by fully licensed medical doctors remains critical.

In my travels across the country, I’ve visited many VA facilities, including Orlando, Florida, and Battle Creek, Michigan. From those experiences, I have consistently highlighted the dedication of VA employees.


I typically refrain from discussing my personal experiences, but I feel that sharing my battle with hearing loss, a service-connected disability, might help others. For years, I resisted acknowledging my hearing difficulties, despite obvious signs, such as struggling to follow conversations. This problem is not always easy to admit.

The VA says that hearing loss, including tinnitus, is the most-common service-connected disability among veterans. The causes of hearing loss are diverse, ranging from inner ear damage due to aging or exposure to loud noises, earwax buildup, infections, bone growths, tumors, and ruptured eardrums. Moreover, the VA reported in 2021 that veterans with moderate-to-severe tinnitus are more likely to develop PTSD, depression, and anxiety.

To mitigate hearing loss, taking preventative measures such as wearing earplugs can be crucial, especially during everyday activities known to have an impact on hearing, such as lawn mowing or exposure to loud music. If you suspect a hearing issue, consulting a physician is essential, as they are best equipped to diagnose and address such conditions.

The VA, employing more than 1,370 audiologists, 410 audiology technicians, and 450 speech-language pathologists, is the largest employer in these fields in the U.S. I urge anyone facing hearing challenges not to delay seeking help. Losing your hearing is a serious matter—awareness and proactive care are key.




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