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The Hearing Center of Excellence: Annual Hearing Exams


As human beings in an industrialized nation, we experience noise levels that are damaging — almost on a daily basis.

The military is a noisy environment.

Especially in a combat situation — very loud, very violent. And certain noises may happen at a split second. So we have to be prepared for it.

Tank noise, generator noise, aircraft, weapons fire.

So, I’m always exposed to some type of steady-state noise or impulse noise.

As someone progresses through life and through their career, we really shouldn’t see a change in their hearing. And quite often when you do see a change in someone’s hearing, it progresses so slowly over a period of time that the individual’s not even aware of it.

A baseline audiogram is very important in that it sets the initial picture of what someone’s hearing looks like.

That hearing test allows us then to perform an annual hearing examination on them and compare it back to that initial baseline.

And only by monitoring changes over time can we affect how we intervene and provide training and devices to help stop any changes or prevent them from having them in the first place.

I think it’s very important for soldiers to have an annual hearing test.

Sometimes it really is the first indication that there’s a problem.

Military members are reluctant to get their hearing tested because they feel there’s a stigma attached to having hearing loss and serving in the military.

Service members will be reluctant to have a hearing test because they’re afraid a problem will be identified and their job may be at risk.

I think people do not want to have a hearing test simply because they’re scared of what they might find out.

This is what you do for a living and let’s say that all of the sudden someone’s telling you that you may no longer be eligible for military service because you’ve had a dramatic change in your hearing. That’s extremely threatening.

A lot of that comes from the idea that they feel they’ll be separated from military service, if a hearing loss is diagnosed. And that’s just not the case.

The message is not to avoid it, but to embrace it and participate because generally problems are not huge that are identified early.

It’s not uncommon to sit down with a service member, show them that they’ve had a change in their hearing, and you can truly see the surprise on their face.

I think we should be able to gauge where you currently are and properly fit you for a device to prevent you further hearing loss. Or to stop any hearing loss, if you have perfect hearing.

If we identify a hearing change early, we can generally intervene and prevent it from getting any worse … when it really would cause some problems.

When we see a patient who has been exposed and has a shift in their threshold and they have a hearing loss, there are some things that we can do medically to try to bring that hearing back.

Today with our technology, we have hearing aids that you can’t even see them in many cases. There’ve been such improvements.

Many members serve with hearing loss. Many members serve effectively with a large degree of hearing loss, depending on your career field.

The quality of sound is very good in comparison to where we were 50, 40 years … even 20 years ago.

Early intervention is absolutely critical. And it’s those metrics that we track that allow us to get in there when we see evidence of an injury before it manifests itself, so we can prevent that injury from occurring.

Hopefully, in the future we can convince people how important their hearing is, not just on a personal basis, but to their job performance and to their survivability … to their lethality.

Hear to live.

About Us

The Hearing Center of Excellence fosters and promotes the prevention, diagnosis, mitigation, treatment, rehabilitation and research of hearing loss and auditory injury. It supports the development, exchange and adoption of best practices, research, measures of effectiveness and clinical care guidelines to reduce the prevalence and cost of hearing loss and tinnitus among Warriors and Veterans. Read more

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