Perspective | Veterans Day 2020

By Starkey Chief Audiology Officer Sara Burdak, AuD

Veterans Day is an important opportunity to not only show our deep gratitude to those who have served our country, but to highlight the issues that impact them the most. At Starkey, I have the distinct honor of working with the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DOD) to help veterans and active duty military members who are suffering from hearing loss. In recent years, we’ve witnessed an increased prevalence of what are called invisible wounds. This includes traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress, chronic fatigue and pain, and vision loss. Topping this list are tinnitus and hearing loss. 

Starkey Chief Audiology Officer, Sara Burdak, AuD

Tinnitus is the number one service-related health condition, followed by hearing loss at number two. VA works with millions of veterans each year to treat these conditions, often caused by noise exposure from gunfire, tanks, and bombs. Many current and former service members, however, do not seek out hearing health care.

Data shows veterans are 30% more likely than non-veterans to have severe hearing impairment. Those who served after September 2001 are four times more likely, and the numbers are only growing. While many people assume hearing loss impacts mostly older adults, the data shows this is simply not true. Younger veterans and active duty military members—and their loved ones—need to be aware. If they suspect they may have hearing loss, resources are available. 

Hearing loss and hearing aids have a history of being associated with a stigma that discourages many from seeking help. Fortunately, hearing aids from Starkey today offer features that actively engage users in a more vibrant lifestyle. The convenience of seamless connection to smartphones for communication and enjoyment of podcasts and music gives easy listening a new meaning. Our latest Livio AI hearing aids use artificial intelligence and integrated sensors to track body and brain activity, and detect falls, promoting an active and safe lifestyle. We are turning hearing aids into want-to-have wearable technology that will improve overall quality of life, in addition to offering superior sound quality.

Working directly with audiologists at the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense is a privilege. They are some of the finest professionals in the hearing industry, and I encourage veterans and active duty military members to reach out the VA for an evaluation if a hearing problem is suspected. There’s no reason to miss out on hearing the world around you. You’ve selflessly served our country. Now it’s time to give yourself the life-changing benefit of better hearing. 

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