Little is known about the impact of tinnitus on UK veterans. Service in the military can involve exposure to high levels of noise, resulting in many military veterans experiencing hearing loss and tinnitus, which can continue beyond their service. Tinnitus is the number one Service-related disability in the US.

Our project

In collaboration with the University of Nottingham, we secured funding from The Royal British Legion from the Aged Veterans Fund, funded by the Chancellor using LIBOR funds, to explore how tinnitus impacts aged UK military veterans.

A questionnaire, focus group, and interviews were conducted to explore older UK veterans’ experiences of living with tinnitus. To take part, the participants had to have served at least 1 day in the British Armed Forces and be born before 1950.

Our findings

The research found that over half of older veterans had lived with tinnitus for over 20 years, with many experiencing symptoms more severe than other groups of people. There was a lack of knowledge amongst the veterans about tinnitus, how it can be experienced, and the available management options. Veterans spoke about the lack of health and safety when they were in the British Armed Forces. During their time in the Services, veterans were exposed to high levels of noise and had no access to (adequate) hearing protection.

A number of beliefs prevented veterans from seeking help for their tinnitus. Veterans believed there were no effective treatments because tinnitus cannot be ‘cured’, and that tinnitus was not a priority health care demand compared to other conditions.

Participants had complex and diverse relationships with their identity as a veteran, and this influenced views about whether a veteran-specific tinnitus service would be beneficial. The ‘military mind’ was viewed as an integral part of being a veteran, which meant that veterans were viewed as different to civilians. A difference which was highlighted was veterans’ increased acceptance of difficult situations; many had accepted their tinnitus and come to endure it instead of seeking help. This research indicates that older UK veterans with tinnitus experience more severe symptoms than was reported for a general research population or US veteran population.

Our recommendations

Our four main recommendations are for the Government, health care professionals, and service providers, including any charities working with the UK veteran community, older people and/or people living with tinnitus to:

1.

Inform

Share information with the veteran community and their friends and family about what tinnitus is and how it may be experienced.

2.

Prevent

(worsening) tinnitus through training about healthy hearing behaviours with the veteran community.

3.

Encourage

aged veterans to challenge any potential tinnitus help-seeking barriers.

4.

Educate

the public about who is a veteran, and the characteristics of the ‘military mind’.

You can download the report in full here:

SOLDIERING ON - FULL REPORT

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