Department of Defense
Hearing Center of Excellence
Optimize Operational Effectiveness
Heighten Medical Readiness
Enhance Quality of Life
Collaborative Leadership and Advocacy
for Hearing and Balance Health Initiatives
Advocating for Active Duty Service Members and Veterans
The Hearing Center of Excellence was created in 2009 because of the ever-increasing numbers and magnitude of the problems related with hearing loss among service members and veterans.
Hearing loss is a signature injury of military service.
We have a lot of noise-induced hearing loss that may be compounded with age-related hearing loss.
I truly believe that’s why we were Congressionally mandated.
The VA’s audiology program responsibility is to take care of those veterans who have auditory disorders.
We try to treat each veteran as an individual, and focus on what they really need in order to improve their quality of life.
The mission of the Hearing Center of Excellence is to bring service members and veterans the best audiological care possible.
The Directorates in the HCE are Operations, Prevention, Information Management, Clinical Care, and Research.
The Operations Directorate really is set up to support the primary pillars of the HCE.
The Prevention Directorate is responsible for education.
We have a Comprehensive Hearing Health Program approach that focuses in on education, protection, and monitoring.
The Informatics Directorate assists in all of the directorates in one form or fashion or another.
This biggest thing that they do is they’re building our hearing loss registry.
We have a Clinical Care Directorate that is responsible for helping define the best practices.
We are putting out protocols to both our DOD and VA audiologists.
Our Research Directorate has this network that we’ve developed, and we’re very much involved in collaboration with the research entities within the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
And so we align ourselves so that we can create that facilitation and really encourage the community to come in and help in our mission.
All the Directorates of the HCE really function together. One Directorate standing alone wouldn’t be able to function without the help of the others.
The partnership with the VA is extremely important to the HCE. We’re finding out how our programs are actually effecting the service member long term.
All of the services now obtain a baseline hearing test at entry into the military services, so that is a huge milestone for us, and that starts our registry of information.
It gives us the ability as a healthcare provider to see the full picture of an individual’s hearing health care.
So, if I see a patient in San Antonio and they PCS to Korea, the audiologists in Korea can reach out and pull in that electronic medical record.
If they have a baseline hearing evaluation on a service member when he or she enters service, and then an exit when they leave service, and then you can tie that to the VA.
We know that service members go to the VA when they’re done with DOD, and we can’t just stop taking care of them at that point.
So, what we’re saying is we’re seeing veterans coming to VA for services at a younger age and in greater numbers.
And we have to make that transition very smooth.
Over half of the veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have already transitioned to VA for some level of care.
You can follow that service member’s continuum for hearing health care from the time they were in basic training through their entire life.
That’s why the registry’s going to be so powerful, because we going to be able to seriously dig in to the data.
It’s extremely important to us. It’s a novel, unprecedented tool that we will be able to use to identify the lifespan of hearing for any individual.
That’s the end game, that’s the end goal of where we’re trying to get with this.
Hearing is important for veterans so that they continue to have a good quality of life.
And hearing loss, and the loss of that communicative ability, can have negative impacts.
Keep in mind what they’ll do after they separate or retire from the military. They’ll go on to a work, or go to school, and have families.
Having the ability to hear your loved ones, have conversations with your husband or wife, and hear your children call to you.
We want them to be able to enjoy a quality of life that hearing loss will degrade for them.
So the consequences are real. Hearing loss can, in turn, represent a significant diminishment of quality of life issues for many of our patients.
I believe the Hearing Center will have a lasting impact on service members, as well as veterans, for many years to come.
Hearing loss and tinnitus are the top two compensable disabilities for the VA. And so we want to try to mitigate that — reduce the incidence of hearing loss and tinnitus within the population.
They’re serving over 2 million people with those problems.
I know now that the HCE can play a critical role in helping to direct the efforts that are going to provide that solution. And I’m going to have more ability to meet those unmet needs of my patients.
So the veteran is always our focus. And they love their country, and we’re there to serve them.
It’s a noisy world… Protect your hearing.