The following is a guest blog post from Jennifer Born, Director of Public Affairs with the American Tinnitus Association.
If you're one of the 50 million Americans with "ringing in the ears" then you know what tinnitus is. In the United States, 16 million suffer with tinnitus and have sought medical attention for this condition - currently there is no cure. The American Tinnitus Association (ATA) exists to cure tinnitus through the development of resources that advance tinnitus research. For over 40 years ATA has helped patients better understand and manage their tinnitus, while funding research toward a cure.
Tinnitus is most commonly caused by noise exposure, either from a single exposure to an extremely loud sound or from cumulative exposure over time. The second leading cause of tinnitus is head and neck injury. There are also several other widely known causes of tinnitus.
Established in 1927, the month of May is known as "Better Hearing and Speech Month." Since 2004, it is also when ATA establishes and recognizes National Tinnitus Awareness Week (TAW). This TAW will be celebrated May 19-25, 2013 and the theme is "Salute to Silence." The reason is because of the disproportionate and growing number of veterans and military personnel who are impacted by this condition.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) tinnitus is the number one service-connected disability for veterans from all periods of service, accounting for over 840,000 individuals. The VA provides a disability rating to allow veterans to receive compensation for injuries incurred during service. The current rating for tinnitus is 10% which is equivalent to about $131 a month or $1,572 per year.
Tinnitus disability to veterans has been increasing at an alarming rate of 16.5% per year since 2006. At the end of 2011 the cost associated with compensating veterans for tinnitus equaled $1.28 billion. At the current rate of increase, it will reach $2.75 billion annually just for tinnitus, compared to about $10 million annually being spent on research to cure it, between all public and private funding. Tinnitus disability among veterans ranks above hearing loss (701,760), post traumatic stress disorder (501,280), and lumbosacral or cervical strain (309,915).
The Department of Defense Hearing Center of Excellence recently quantified that economic loss to an individual with tinnitus and/or hearing loss is $30,000 annually and society as a whole loses a total $26,000,000,000. Research has demonstrated that tinnitus is often accompanied by depression, inability to sleep, and cognitive deficits. So it is not just the auditory impairment that these veterans and many millions with tinnitus are experiencing - it is a whole host of conditions which must be managed and further researched together.
That is why during this Tinnitus Awareness Week ATA invites you to help raise awareness of tinnitus to match the necessity for it cure. We have developed a resource center that includes a wealth of information you can use to help raise awareness of tinnitus in your own towns, cities, and states and will empower you and others to help get the word out about ATA and its mission to cure tinnitus. Visit ATA.org/taw2013 for all the resources you need to get you started right away!