Skip to main content

Military Health System

DOD Conservation Programs Help to Decrease Hearing Loss

Image of A group of service members walking. Hearing and eye protection is required by all service members when firing weapons or operating loud machinery. Here, U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Marcus Schaffer with the Illinois Air National Guard dons hearing protection during weapons training at Camp San Luis Obispo, California, Aug. 8, 2021. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Aaron Rodriguez, 126th Air Refueling Wing)

Recommended Content:

Hearing Center of Excellence | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention

Noise can be a prevalent hazardous exposure to service members, regardless of occupation or specialty.

Around 10% of service members are affected by hearing loss. “The two largest claims of disability in the Department of Veterans Affairs for the last several years have been tinnitus and hearing loss,” according to U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Kyle Shepard, an occupational audiologist at the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division at Naval Air Station Patuxent River.

The Comprehensive Hearing Health Program was developed by the Defense Health Agency Hearing Center of Excellence as a collection of tools which can be used by the services’ Hearing Conservation Programs. These materials group the elements of an effective hearing conservation program in three components: education, protection, and monitoring to combat hearing loss. Focused on protecting military personnel and civilians from hearing loss caused by occupational and operational noise exposure, the program aims to make conserving hearing a life-long priority.

Educating our Forces on the Issue

First, the Hearing Conservation Programs inform service members about the risk of hearing loss.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Michael Hammerbacher, hearing conservation program manager at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, noted that jobs like security forces, explosive ordinance disposal, firefighters, mechanics, and pilots are usually at higher risk than other occupations and need to be educated accordingly. Yet, he adds, it’s not just the presence of loud noise that can cause hearing loss. Research has shown that those who handle certain chemicals, like jet fuel or solvents, are at risk of developing hearing loss or balance problems, regardless of noise exposure.

The U.S. Air Force, like the other branches, holds annual trainings for those enrolled in programs, as well as lectures, town hall meetings, and community awareness programs “to educate not only the military components, but also civilians. We train on the use of proper hearing protection, effects of hazardous noise, and measures one can take to reduce their chance of hearing loss,” said Hammerbacher.

It's also important to know the signs and symptoms of hearing loss to get help if there’s an issue. According to the National Institutes of Health, signs of hearing loss include:

• A dullness in hearing.

• Ringing in the ears (tinnitus).

• Difficulty following conservations.

• Difficulty in understanding speech.

Enforcing Protection and New Technology to Prevent Loss

Shepard stressed the importance of protective equipment. “In the military, we're getting faster, stronger and more lethal, which often involves our aircrafts, weapon systems, or equipment becoming louder. We need to think about personal protective equipment and controls on the individual,” said Shepard.

He explained that sometimes sailors can get frustrated with their protection, because they may not understand commands, and will often remove it. “I empathize with them. We need to strike that balance between adequately protecting, but not over protecting, so we don't decrease performance, particularly from a communication and situational awareness standpoint.”

Innovations in hearing technology can further protect service members, including equipment that helps you communicate while conserving your hearing.

“The biggest advances currently being investigated are electronic hearing protectors. They have active noise-reduction technology, which include speakers and microphones in and outside of earmuffs, that when turned on, can digitally suppress noise inside of the hearing protector,” said Shepard.

Newer innovations like noise-attenuating helmet systems, tactical communications and protective systems, new materials for ear plugs, 3D scanning of ear canals, 3D printing of earplugs, equipment encasements, and much more are also being tested across the DOD.

Monitoring Exposure to Noise

Monitoring noise exposure is a critical part of military hearing conservation. As an example, the program monitors not only risks, but who is at risk. “Unlike the Marine Corps, where every Marine is a rifleman, and therefore everyone is automatically enrolled in the hearing conservation program, in the Navy we determine which personnel are routinely exposed to hazardous noise and meet the criteria to be enrolled,” said Shepard.

It's also important to know how sound intensity impacts hearing loss. “The hazard is noise. We need to determine what type of noise people are exposed to, whether it’s impulse, continuous, or a mixture. Then how intense that noise is and what is the average amount of time people may be around it,” said Shepard.

A newer technology that makes monitoring hearing loss easier and more accessible for the warfighter is “boothless” audiometry, which are portable tests. The capability increases access to hearing services because hearing tests can now be completed anywhere.

“It's a game changer,” said Dr. Victoria Bugtong, hearing program manager at Fort George G. Meade Medical Department Activity at Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center, in Fort Meade, Maryland. “It's a wireless testing system. It uses noise cancellation technology in headsets and can be done outside of the conventional clinic setting like office spaces, conference rooms, in the field, or wherever needed.”

Successful hearing conservation and care also consider how service members are treated. “Our treatments are done with a multidisciplinary approach to determining causes of issues and how to appropriately intervene. A proper hearing conservation program is managed with specialists in multiple professions,” said Hammerbacher.

Shepard talked about the four “Ps” of hearing loss. The first “one is unfortunately, that it’s painless. I wish noise-induced hearing loss always caused pain, but it doesn’t. So, it’s harder to detect immediately. The second is that it’s progressive. The third ‘P’ is that it is permanent. There is no medication or surgery that can reverse that injury right now. The fourth ‘P’ is that is preventable.”

Education about prevention is ultimately the best solution against hearing loss. An increase in applying prevention methods is why the military has seen a decrease in hearing loss prevalence over time. “I would argue most of all, it’s just the culture that we’re trying to create around safety in the military,” Shepard said. “While I’m a big proponent of mental toughness, grit, and resilience, and that is obviously a very large virtue in the military, these are not attributes you can rely on to overcome hearing loss.”

You also may be interested in...

Hearing Protector Fit-Testing Requirement in the Department of Defense

Fact Sheet
1/12/2023

Significant updates to the Department of Defense Instruction (DoDI) 6055.12 “Hearing Conservation Program” are expected to be published in April 2023. The significant change is a new requirement for initial hearing protector fit-testing to be conducted for all DOD personnel who have documented noise exposure greater than or equal to 95 dBA 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) and who are enrolled in a service hearing conservation program (HCP).

Recommended Content:

Hearing Center of Excellence | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention | Hearing and Balance Injuries

National Glaucoma Awareness Month

Infographic
12/6/2022
National Glaucoma Awareness Month

There’s no cure for glaucoma, but early detection and treatment can protect your vision. Learn more and see if you’re at risk. https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/outreach-campaigns-and-resources/glaucoma-resources/glaucoma-awareness-month #GlaucomaAwarenessMonth

Recommended Content:

January | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention

I Am Navy Medicine -- Audiology Technician

Article Around MHS
11/3/2022
U.S. Navy Seaman Tabetha M. Sanders, audiology technician

With October designated as Audiology Awareness Month, now is the time for everyone to listen up, heed the call, and harken to the need for healthy hearing.

Recommended Content:

Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention

Mobile Hearing Tests Prove Successful in the Field and Beyond

Article
10/24/2022
Female service member in front holds a clicker while wearing a headset. In the background is the hearing test technician..

Mobile audiometry equipment can be used from the point of injury to advanced traumas.

Recommended Content:

Hearing Center of Excellence | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention

New Policy Benefits Noise-exposed Service Members

Article
10/20/2022
A service member wears headphones while sitting at a desk.

New hearing protection fit-testing policy on the horizon.

Recommended Content:

Hearing Center of Excellence | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention

Audiology Awareness Month Healthy Ears

Infographic
8/17/2022
Audiology Awareness Month Healthy Ears

#DYK? Audiologists are health care professionals who can help prevent, evaluate, diagnose, treat and manage hearing loss and balance disorders. To find an audiologist, visit: https://hearing.health.mil/Resources/Help-and-Support/Find-a-Provider #AudiologyAwarenessMonth

Recommended Content:

Hearing Center of Excellence | October

Audiology Awareness Month Hear for Life

Infographic
8/17/2022
Audiology Awareness Month Hear for Life

People at every stage of life—from young to older adults—are at risk for noise-induced hearing loss. Hearing loss can impact not only your readiness but the quality of life. National Audiology Awareness Month reminds us how important hearing is as a critical sense and explains how to protect your hearing. Regular hearing checkups are important actions you can take to ensure your hearing is healthy. For more information, visit: https://www.tricare.mil/CoveredServices/IsItCovered/HearingExams.aspx?sc_database=web https://hearing.health.mil #AudiologyAwarenessMonth

Recommended Content:

October | Hearing Center of Excellence

Audiology Awareness Month Ear Protection

Infographic
8/17/2022
Audiology Awareness Month Ear Protection

Service members can prevent hearing loss by wearing protective gear like earplugs, noise muffs, noise-attenuating helmets and other approved devices. Check with your Hearing Conservation Program or audiologist about which protective device is best for your job and environment. For more about HPDs visit: https://hearing.health.mil/Prevention/Hearing-Protection-Devices https://hearing.health.mil/Prevention/Evaluated-Hearing-Protection-Devices #AudiologyAwarenessMonth

Recommended Content:

Hearing Center of Excellence | October

Ask the Doc: All This Noise is Giving Me Headaches

Article
6/13/2022
Ask the Doc: Noise from ship can cause headaches. Try to give your ears a rest when you can.

Ask the Doc: What is causing all of these headaches?

Recommended Content:

Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention | Hearing Center of Excellence | Ask The Doc

New Centers Will Deliver Advanced Care for Serious Eye Injuries

Article
4/27/2022
Army Brig. Gen. Katherine Simonson, Defense Health Agency Deputy Assistant Director of the Research and Engineering Directorate, and Dr. Barclay Butler, Assistant Director for Management, DHA, talks with Army Lt. Col. Samantha Rodgers, Ophthalmology chief (left), during a tour and designation ceremony April 19 at the Ocular Trauma Center – San Antonio Region, Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The designation ceremony marked the launch of DHA’s first Ocular Trauma Center, comprised of personnel from Brooke Army Medical Center and the 59th Medical Group. (Photo: Larine H. Barr, DOD)

The Defense Health Agency launched the first of four Ocular Trauma Centers, which will become primary hubs for the treatment of complex eye injuries and development of cutting-edge research programs.

Recommended Content:

Centers of Excellence | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention | Vision Center of Excellence | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention

Vision and Hearing Connect Graphic 5

Infographic
4/25/2022
Vision and Hearing Connect Graphic 5

Vision and hearing are critical components of everyday life. Guard your senses to prevent hearing and vision injuries. Learn more: https://vce.health.mil; https://hearing.health.mil, and follow HCE on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/DODHCE #SightandSoundReady

Recommended Content:

Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention | Hearing Center of Excellence | Vision Center of Excellence

Vision and Hearing Primary Graphic

Infographic
4/25/2022
Vision and Hearing Primary Graphic

Hearing and vision are vital components of force readiness and quality of life. Regular hearing and vision checkups can ensure you are #SightandSoundReady. https://www.dvidshub.net/video/796691/stay-sight-and-sound-ready

Recommended Content:

Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention | Hearing Center of Excellence | Vision Center of Excellence

Vision and Hearing Connect Graphic 4

Infographic
4/25/2022
Vision and Hearing Connect Graphic 4

What protective equipment is right for you? The Authorized Protective Eyewear List and Hearing Protection Device Evaluated Products List help service members select proper gear. APEL: https://www.peosoldier.army.mil/Equipment/Approved-Eyewear-QPL/ HPD EPL: https://hearing.health.mil/Prevention/Evaluated-Hearing-Protection-Devices

Recommended Content:

Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention | Hearing Center of Excellence | Vision Center of Excellence

Vision and Hearing Connect Graphic 3

Infographic
4/25/2022
Vision and Hearing Connect Graphic 3

To be #SightandSoundReady, schedule regular exams to maintain vision and hearing health. Your readiness and well-being depend on it. https://www.health.mil/Military-Health-Topics/Total-Force-Fitness/Preventive-Health/Vision-and-Hearing-Loss-Prevention

Recommended Content:

Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention | Hearing Center of Excellence | Vision Center of Excellence

Keep Your Eyes and Ears Healthy

Infographic
4/25/2022
Keep Your Eyes and Ears Healthy

Vision and hearing health impact every aspect of our lives. Protect your senses so that you can stay ready and connected. https://www.health.mil/Military-Health-Topics/Total-Force-Fitness/Preventive-Health/Vision-and-Hearing-Loss-Prevention #SightandSoundReady

Recommended Content:

Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention | Hearing Center of Excellence | Vision Center of Excellence
<< < 1 2 3 4 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 4
Refine your search
Last Updated: February 01, 2023
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery