Hearing Difficulty, Vision Trouble, and Balance Problems Among Male Veterans and Nonveterans

June 12, 2020

Questions for Jacqueline Lucas, Health Statistician and Lead Author of “Hearing Difficulty, Vision Trouble, and Balance Problems Among Male Veterans and Nonveterans.”

Q: Why does NCHS conduct studies on U.S. Veterans?

JL: Veterans are known to differ in their health and health care access and utilization from non-veterans. NCHS surveys are uniquely positioned to collect information on all US veterans in the civilian noninstitutionalized population of the United States.

Q: Why did you specifically focus on male Veterans?

JL: We focused on male veterans in the report because of the small number of female veterans in the 2016 NHIS.

Q: Can you summarize how the data varied by male Veterans and nonveterans?

JL: Male veterans were more likely to have hearing difficulty (a little/moderate hearing difficulty, as well as a lot of hearing difficulty or to be deaf), dual sensory impairment (vision trouble and hearing difficulty), and balance problems than nonveterans. When we looked at the data by age, younger veterans were more likely to hearing difficulty compared with nonveterans in comparable age groups.

Q: Was there a specific finding in the data that surprised you from this report?

JL: We hadn’t seen much in the literature about balance problems in veterans, so we were surprised to see that veterans were more likely to have balance problems than nonveterans. Additionally, we were surprised to see that male veterans aged 18-44 were 3 times more likely to have a little or moderate hearing trouble than nonveterans in the same age group.

Q: What is the take home message for this report? (The reporter could also say “Any other comments?”)

JL: We’ve tended to think of veterans with health concerns as older men who served years ago in earlier conflicts. The population of post 9/11 veterans is increasing relative to the population of veterans from previous combat cohorts. This includes younger veterans whose serviced in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). Our findings can be a starting point for expanded research into other demographic and health comorbidities that may be related to hearing loss and other sensory impairments in veterans.