According the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 128,000 veterans have returned from overseas combat in the past decade with tinnitus, which is a debilitating ringing in the ears, or some level of hearing loss. These veterans return home "finding it difficult to communicate, and according to Allen Ford, assistant professor and coordinator of RIT's Veterans with Hearing Loss program, they struggle to overcome their new disability.
"They sometimes feel embarrassed, isolated, frustrated, and angry," explains Ford. "Depression is a common side effect of hearing loss because the veterans become isolated from other people around them."
The Veterans with Hearing Loss program is designed to empower these veterans by retraining them for their post-combat lives. Through the GI Bill, individuals receive tuition, housing, and book allowances to cover the cost of attending a state-run college or university. As a "Yellow Ribbon" partner, RIT and the VA pick up the additional cost associated with a private university education. Students receive support through RIT's National Technical Institute for the Deaf, which provides educational access services that include note taking, C-Print captioning, and audiology services for cochlear implant mapping.
"All of this means that veterans with a hearing loss who come to RIT benefit from world-class private university education at little or no cost," says Ford.
Coordinators of RIT's Veterans with Hearing Loss program are reaching out nationally to encourage participation by qualified veterans. For more information, visit www.rit.edu/ntid/veterans.