different types of hearing loss in vets and soldiers

Different Types of Hearing Loss in Vets and Soldiers

Just like there are many different causes of hearing loss and tinnitus in soldiers and military veterans, there are several types of hearing loss that can occur in vets. These types of hearing loss can also affect civilians and may result in requiring hearing aids.

If you were on duty or in training with the US military, you were subjected to the noise of weapons and engines almost every day.

Hearing loss can make life stressful. It can be hard to communicate with your loved ones or hold down a job if you aren’t being treated.

We’re going to learn all the types of hearing loss. If you suffer from any of these hearing ailments after serving in the military between the years of 2003-2015, you may be due compensation from 3M.

Different Types of Hearing Loss

Keep in mind, there are three main parts of your ear. There’s the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear.

All three parts of your ear work to send a sound you hear through your ear canal to your auditory pathways. Your auditory nerves send the sound or speech to your brain through different pathways. Then your brain translates what you heard into something you can understand.

Each type of hearing loss is due to some type of damage to the three parts of your ear and should be classed as a hearing loss disability.

We’re going to go over the four types of hearing loss military personnel could be experiencing that may require hearing aids.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural hearing loss happens when there’s damage to your inner ear or the nerve pathways passed your inner ear is hurt, preventing sound to travel any further. This makes sound seem muffled.

It’s also the most common type of hearing loss in military veterans and in civilians.

Sensorineural is, unfortunately, permanent hearing loss. Sound isn’t able to travel to your brain to be translated because the hair cells in your inner ear are damaged and unable to pass the sound waves on.

Sensorineural hearing loss is often caused by:

  • Aging or getting older
  • Hereditary genes in your family
  • Traumatic injury to your ears or head
  • Loud sounds and noises
  • Loud sounds and noises for a long period of time
  • Some autoimmune diseases
  • Some blood vessel diseases
  • A growth in your inner ear
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Certain medications

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss happens when a sound can’t go through the middle ear and/or your outer ear because of damage without any hearing protection. This makes sounds and speech seem faint or far away.

The sound gets blocked due to blockage from fluid or part of your ear is damaged. Either your middle ear or outer ear is having difficulty. The sound can’t conduct, hence the name conductive hearing loss.

Conductive hearing loss is often caused by:

  • Chronic ear infections that can damage parts of your ear or build up fluid
  • A growth in your middle or outer ear
  • Wax build up in your inner ear
  • Swimmer’s ear (Otitus externa)
  • Thickening of the tympanic membrane
  • Blockage in the tube that connects your middle ear to the back of your nose and throat
  • Break between the bones of your middle ear caused by injury to the ear

Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed hearing loss is what it sounds like. It’s hearing loss due to both conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss.

Mixed hearing loss means you have damage to the inner ear and either the middle ear or outer ear. There are mixed damage and mixed factors causing your hearing loss.

This type of hearing loss is caused by the same issues from conductive hearing and/or sensorineural hearing. It can make your hearing both faint and muffled at the same time. Speech is hard to understand for someone with mixed hearing loss.

Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder Hearing Loss

Auditory neuropathy (ANSD) is when the auditory nerves are compromised so the message is never received by your brain. The auditory nerves are the nerves that send the sound waves from your inner ear to your brain to be decoded.

Auditory neuropathy wasn’t discovered until the 1990s. It’s also believed to be a major factor in complete deafness in both children and adults and can be brought about by not wearing hearing protection when exposed to loud noises.

If you have auditory neuropathy, you have hearing loss that varies from mild to severe.

Some people with auditory neuropathy can hear sounds and noises just fine but have difficulty hearing and understanding speech, but the experience is different for every person.

The known causes of auditory neuropathy include:

  • Premature birth
  • Lack of oxygen when you’re born
  • Certain infectious diseases
  • Certain autoimmune disorder
  • Certain neurological disorders


Even though Tinnitus isn’t a type of hearing loss but a common symptom of it, it deserves to be mentioned in its own section. Most vets and soldiers dealing with hearing loss also are dealing with and struggling with tinnitus.

Reported in 2014, almost 1.3 million vets were receiving some type of compensation from the VA for tinnitus.

Tinnitus causes different types of sounds in the ear that includes buzzing, clicking, hissing, roaring, and ringing.

Tinnitus can run from mild to severe. It also can be a constant nuisance to some while others only deal with it on and off. Some people struggle with tinnitus in one ear while others have tinnitus in both ears. It varies from person to person.

The most common causes of tinnitus include:

  • Age-related hearing loss
  • Loud sounds and noises
  • Loud sounds and noises for long periods of time
  • Wax impaction
  • Trauma to your head or neck
  • Certain blood vessel diseases
  • Certain circulatory system disorders
  • Certain medications

Other symptoms than buzzing in the ears include:

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Memory issues
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

The Bottom Line

Sensorineural hearing loss is the main cause of hearing loss in veterans and soldiers. This occurs from being surrounded by loud noises constantly, whether it’s loud blasts from weapons or engines buzzing right next to you.

If you believe you’re suffering from any form or hearing loss listed above, you should talk with a physician immediately.

If you’re a veteran who suffered from hearing loss and used 3M’s defective Combat Arms earplugs while in training or in combat from 2003-2015, you should seek legal assistance as soon as possible.