Noise-Induced Hearing Loss and Tinnitus Associated with Military Service from World War II to the Present

Type: Consensus Study
Topics: Military and Veterans Health
Board: Medical Follow-Up Agency

Activity Description

A congressionally mandated study by the Institute of Medicine assessed noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus associated with military service from World War II to the present, the effects of noise on hearing, and the availability of audiometric testing data for active duty personnel.

The expert committee was charged with providing recommendations to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on the assessment of noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus associated with service in the Armed Forces. The committee was asked to

  • review staff-generated data on compliance with regulations regarding audiometric testing in the services at specific periods of time since World War II,
  • review and assess available data on hearing loss,
  • identify sources of potentially damaging noise during active duty,
  • determine levels of noise exposure necessary to cause hearing loss or tinnitus,
  • determine if the effects of noise exposure can be of delayed onset,
  • identify risk factors for noise-induced hearing loss, and
  • identify when hearing conservation measures were adequate to protect the hearing of service members.

Staff of the Medical Follow-up Agency identified populations of veterans from each of the armed services (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard) and from each of the time periods from WWII to the present. The service medical records of a sample of these individuals were obtained and reviewed for records of audiometric surveillance (including reference and termination audiograms).

The committee's final report, Noise and Military Service: Implications for Hearing Loss and Tinnitus, was released in September 2005.

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