UK Veterans Hearing Loss Statistics

Our Estimations

At the UK Veterans Hearing Foundation (UKVHF), we’re committed to understanding and addressing the auditory needs of our veterans. Below are key insights derived from our ongoing research and operational data:

10,714

Our data reveals that only one in every 10,714 veterans in the UK is able to access comprehensive, fully funded hearing support annually.

£930 M

To extend this vital support to all affected individuals, we estimate a requirement of £930 million in funding, aimed at providing comprehensive hearing support to every UK veteran currently suffering from hearing issues.

UKVHF

As it stands, UKVHF proudly remains the sole charity in the UK dedicated to supporting veterans with hearing loss, striving to make a significant difference in their lives.

The Lost Voices Report

In our effort to raise awareness and support for veterans with hearing issues, we’ve distilled the most impactful findings from The Lost Voices Report by the Royal British Legion. These highlights reflect the unique challenges faced by veterans in terms of hearing loss and its effects on their lives:

The primary hearing loss types among military personnel are sensorineural (due to prolonged exposure to loud noises) and acoustic trauma (from short-duration, high-intensity noises like explosions or gunfire).

Interestingly, 12% of veterans aged 65-74 report hearing loss and 13% experience tinnitus, but these percentages decrease to 11% for hearing loss and 7% for tinnitus among those aged 75-84. This contrasts with the general population, where hearing loss and tinnitus typically increase with age.

A significant 10% of surveyed veterans stated that their hearing loss or tinnitus severely impacts their quality of life, with 43% indicating a substantial effect.

A mere 15% of veterans feel satisfied with the governmental support received for their hearing challenges.

Among those suffering from tinnitus, 23% of veterans describe the condition as severely distressing at its worst, while 40% experience moderate and 24% slight disturbances.

Notably, one-third of the veterans never had their hearing tested again after completing basic training while serving in the Armed Forces.

More than a quarter of the respondents believe their hearing issues have negatively influenced their civilian careers.

Hearing Challenges Among Veterans

Veterans under 75 are 3.5 times more likely to experience hearing difficulties than their counterparts in the UK civilian population of the same age.

As of the last Census Day (21 March 2021), 1.85 million individuals in England and Wales, representing 3.8% of the population aged 16 or over, had served in the UK armed forces.

Common sources of excessive noise exposure leading to hearing loss in UK veterans include weapon fire (SA80 rifles, light and heavy machine guns), flash bangs, mortars, grenades, and engine noise from aircraft, boats, and vehicles.

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), a condition where the brain, rather than the ear, is impaired in processing sound, is a primary hearing issue among veterans. APD can result in severe conditions like deafness and tinnitus due to the impact of an explosion on sound processing.

Hearing difficulties can significantly impact employment prospects, with working-age veterans in the UK nearly twice as likely to be unemployed as their civilian peers.

Tinnitus affects up to 30% of military veterans, twice the prevalence rate in the nonveteran population, and is the most common service-connected disability among veterans.

A 2009 study on infantry soldiers revealed that up to 14% of those returning from Afghanistan in 2007-08 suffered from hearing loss.

Since 2011, hearing loss has been a primary or contributing factor in 9% of all medical discharges from the UK armed forces.

Other risk factors for veterans' hearing loss encompass blast exposure, neurotrauma, hazardous noise, and ototoxicants.

Veterans who served in more recent conflicts may face a higher risk of hearing issues.

In the UK, approximately 300,000 ex-service people are currently suffering from hearing loss.|

References:

  1. Royal British Legion, 2021. Lost Voices: Hearing Loss and Tinnitus in the Armed Forces. [online] Available at: https://storage.rblcdn.co.uk/sitefinity/docs/default-source/campaigns-policy-and-research/lost_voices_hearing_loss_report.pdf [Accessed: 13/12/23]
  2. Blyth, M., [12.07/23]. Detecting hearing loss in the military: are the current methods adequate? ENT & Audiology News. [online] Available at: https://www.entandaudiologynews.com/features/audiology-features/post/detecting-hearing-loss-in-the-military-are-the-current-methods-adequate [Accessed: 13/12/23]
  3. UK Parliament, 2023. Support for UK Veterans. [online] House of Commons Library. Available at: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-7693/ [Accessed: 13/12/23].
  4. Irwin Mitchell, [no date]. The UK Veterans Hearing Foundation and How They Support Ex-Service Personnel. [blog] Available at: https://www.irwinmitchell.com/news-and-insights/newsletters/military-in-focus/november-2022-the-uk-veterans-hearing-foundation-and-how-they-support-ex-service-personnel [Accessed: 13/12/23].
  5. Tepe, V. et al., 2020. Acquired Central Auditory Processing Disorder in Service Members and Veterans. [online] PubMed. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32163310/ [Accessed: 13/12/23].
  6. Brogan, C., 2018. Discussing hearing loss in veterans. [online] Imperial College London. Available at: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/news/186334/discussing-hearing-problems-veterans/ [Accessed: 13/12/23].
  7. Royal British Legion, 2018. 300,000 Veterans living with hearing loss in the UK – Legion urges veterans to seek help during deaf awareness week. [online] Available at: https://www.cobseo.org.uk/300000-veterans-living-hearing-loss-uk-legion-urges-veterans-seek-help-deaf-awareness-week/ [Accessed: 13/12/23].
  8. Royal British Legion, [no date]. Deployment to Employment; Exploring the Veteran Employment Gap in the UK. [pdf] Available at: https://www.britishlegion.org.uk/docs/default-source/campaigns-policy-and-research/deployment-to-employment.pdf [Accessed: 13/12/23].
  9. Schmidt, C.J. et al., 2018. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Veterans With Tinnitus. Federal Practitioner, 35(8), pp.36-46. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6263445/ [Accessed: 13/12/23].