From jet engines and helicopters to firearms and bomb tests, our men and women in the service find themselves exposed to loud noises regularly at work that most of us don’t encounter. These kinds of thunderous noises are a leading cause of permanent hearing loss.
Early detection of hearing loss allows service members to take steps to preserve the hearing they have left. Studies conducted by the military have shown that an annual military hearing test as part of a broader Hearing Conservation Program can reduce hearing-loss rates among service members. Let’s take a look inside these hearing evaluations for the armed forces.
Why Does the Military Care About Hearing?
The military takes its duty to protect the men and women who serve seriously. That includes hearing. On top of that, good hearing is important for the job because a lot of verbal interpersonal coordination is required in many military positions.
It’s also critical for the military to evaluate those in the service to ensure that the Hearing Conservation Program measures taken across the branches of the military are sufficient. This evaluation also shows then when they might need to update the program.
What Happens If a Military Hearing Test Detects Hearing Loss?
If a military hearing test identifies hearing loss, I can work with the individual to develop a personalized strategy to slow the progression of hearing loss. And If needed, I also provide options to improve your hearing or tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
What Kind of Testing Is Involved?
The Defense Occupational and Environmental Health Readiness System-Hearing Conservation (DOEHRS-HC) recommends that each service member have a hearing evaluation annually, plus pre- and post-deployment. These tests can be done in my office here in Memphis.
A hearing evaluation is performed to determine the lowest sound you can hear and different frequencies (pitches) by playing tones or beeps.
When people lose their hearing, they don’t usually lose it all at once. They lose frequencies of sound. So if you have high-frequency hearing loss, you might have trouble with words that contain ‘s’, ‘h’, or ‘f’. This hearing loss leaves gaps in what you hear and understand. If you have low-frequency loss, then ‘b’, ‘d’, and ‘v’ may give you problems.
How Do You Know If Hearing Is Getting Worse?
When you first join the service, you should have a hearing evaluation at the time of induction to service. This becomes the baseline for future tests. I can then compare each test to the one before to see if your hearing is stable or getting worse. If you have what we audiologists call a significant threshold shift (STS), in other words, a significant change in hearing, then I might order more tests to determine the best course of action.
You and I can then re-evaluate our personalized strategy to preserve your hearing.
What Are Some Warning Signs You Need a Hearing Test?
My goal is always to detect hearing changes as early a possible because that’s when we can do the most to slow hearing loss progression. Some signs you need to schedule your hearing test include:
- Trouble understanding someone a few feet away from you
- Mixing up letters like B and D when you hear words
- A ringing, buzzing, static, or other similar sound
- Fullness in your ears after a noisy event. This is a sign of inner ear inflammation, which is an emergency.
Please don’t wait if you’re experiencing these symptoms. Call my office to schedule a military hearing test or civilian hearing test.