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Military Health System

Hearing and Balance Injuries

Military personnel are routinely exposed to high levels of noise in combat, training, and by exposure to potentially hazardous conditions on and off duty. One of the most common injuries for service members is noise-induced hearing loss from brief exposure to impulsive noise like weapons fire, and to the long-term effect of continuous noise from engines and other sources. Noise-exposed DOD civilians are also at risk for noise-induced hearing loss.

Whether on or off duty, it's important to follow healthy hearing practices. Here are a few rules of thumb to follow to protect and preserve your hearing:

  • Know the noise levels. Know how to detect dangerous noise levels and when, where, and how to use hearing protection devices to safeguard your ears. There are varieties of mobile applications and hand-held noise meters available that monitor noise levels.
  • Use products with limited noise output. Previously, household tools, such as power tools and lawn maintenance machinery had extremely high noise levels. Some newer products have a more limited noise output, but hearing protection may still be appropriate.
  • Reduce exposure. Limit the amount of time and exposure to high levels of noise, either by turning down the volume or walking away from a noisy environment. Remember, it's easy to keep a set of ear plugs with you at all times.
  • Wear hearing protection. Always use hearing protection devices in noisy recreational or occupational environments.
  • Turn down the volume. When using personal listening devices or watching television, turn down the volume to a safe noise level.
  • Give your ears a rest. If you're using a personal listening device, attending a concert, or in an environment that involves prolonged listening to moderate or loud sounds, your ears need a recovery period or "quiet time" to rest.

Remember, caring properly for your ears is the best way to have continued hearing health. If you are concerned about your hearing or feel you may have hearing loss, contact your local audiology or hearing conservation clinic for more information on how to receive services in your area.

To reduce noise-induced hearing loss, the Hearing Center of Excellence (HCE) collaborates with hearing conservation programs administered by each service component, and through its Comprehensive Hearing Health Program (CHHP). The HCE is launching CHHP across DOD and VA hearing health clinics, which includes hearing loss prevention education during patient counseling and through global outreach.

The HCE was established by DOD in response to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009 (P.L. 110-417, Sec 721) to address the prevention, diagnosis, mitigation, treatment, and rehabilitation of hearing loss and auditory injury, including auditory-vestibular (balance) dysfunction often related to traumatic brain injury.

Key focus areas include:

  • Developing a data registry to track hearing loss and auditory injuries across the Armed Forces, and sharing the registry data with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA);
  • Preventing hearing loss among service members and veterans, and monitoring the effectiveness of prevention and treatment measures across the VA and DOD;
  • Encouraging and facilitating hearing health research;
  • Developing best practices and clinical education; and
  • Ensuring the coordination and delivery of VA rehabilitation benefits and services to former service members

HCE works to support the continuum of auditory-vestibular system care, from prevention through rehabilitation in service members and their families and veterans.

Get more information about HCE

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Last Updated: October 31, 2022
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