Veterans HE Clinic
The Veterans Association reports that “hearing problems—including tinnitus, which is a perceived ringing or other type of noise in the ears—are by far the most prevalent service-connected disability among American Veterans.” Veterans with hearing problems need to be evaluated by audiologists to qualify for compensation and disability benefits, but these evaluations are hard to come by. Jeanette Mayo, an audiologist at the Memphis Speech and Hearing Center, offered, “Some veterans have been on a waiting list for months just to have an evaluation. Many veterans travel hours away for their evaluations because there are so few audiologists testing veterans for disability benefits.”
The Memphis Speech and Hearing Center is doing its part to increase access. Since 2014, MSHC has partnered with Veterans Administration agencies to provide veterans with compensation and pension exams for both hearing loss and tinnitus. The program sees approximately 6-12 veterans per week. A new program is beginning which will provide treatment for active-duty service members for both hearing loss and tinnitus. MSHC will work closely with the Naval Base located just north of Memphis to serve service members in the Memphis area.
“Part of hearing evaluations for our veterans is a comprehensive questionnaire about their military noise exposure—for example, exposure to small arms fire, large arms fire, aircraft noises, or explosions--, their combat experience, and if hearing protection was utilized while in-service,” Mayo explained. Other questions include, “How has their hearing loss or tinnitus affected their daily lives? How did their military service affect their hearing acuity? Did military noise exposure cause damage (acoustic trauma) to their auditory system?”
As a university-based clinic, MSHC has a unique opportunity to influence the field by exposing future audiologists to the needs of veterans. While only licensed audiologists can provide compensation and pension exams, AuD students may observe. “We have been successful in implementing observations and broadening our students' knowledge regarding what all they can do with their degrees upon graduation,” Dr. Hannah Beth Scott, MSHC audiologist and practice manager, explained. “This is a highly needed service and I believe it will be for quite some time."