Capt. Nathan Green remembers the alarm sounding that day last April in Baghdad's Green Zone. He remembers running, and then the loud explosion of the rocket hitting 30 feet behind him. He was knocked unconscious, suffered a traumatic brain injury and now hears the high-pitched whine and static buzz of an AM radio. All the time.
Except there is no AM radio. Green, 32, an Air Force weather officer for nine years, has tinnitus, or ringing in the ears.
There is no cure, though there is ongoing research to find one. Relief most often comes through various methods of "managing" the condition.
Nobody knows quite how big a group Green has joined. Based on a 2007 survey, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that some 23 million people in the country hear something when there is no external sound present. The American Tinnitus Association (ATA), figures the number may be 50 million, based on a survey done for Gallaudet University in the 1990s.
That survey suggests that about 12 million people have the kind of chronic condition that prompts them to seek medical attention; about 2 million have such a severe case that it is disabling, interfering with sleep, concentration, social interaction and work.
Aging plays a role in the occurrence of tinnitus, as do some physical ailments. But loud noise and subsequent damage to the ear -- the inner ear in particular -- is the principal culprit. The sources of such noise are all around us: sirens, rock concerts, blow dryers, jackhammers, chain saws, power mowers, farm and lawn tractors. Adding to the din is a whole bunch of military things, which explains why tinnitus is the No. 1 service-connected disability for Iraq veterans.
Anything above 85 decibels, about the sound of normal traffic that you can hear with the car windows up, can be damaging. And there is also a growing concern that members of the younger generation are at risk, as they crank up their MP3 players and iPods. ...
Article here. A good reminder to always appropriately protect your hearing during firearms training.