Occupational, combat, and noise-induced hearing loss pose a threat to soldiers and command operations. Cases of hearing loss, tinnitus, and auditory injury in the military continue to rise by as much as13 to 18 percent annually. Tinnitus is now the most common service-connected disability followed closely by hearing loss.
To overcome the challenge, the Department of Defense established the “Hearing Center of Excellence” (HCE) a virtual organization distributed across DOD and the VA to reduce hearing injuries and disabilities. Partnering with academic and industry experts, the HCE focuses on the prevention, diagnosis, mitigation, treatment, and rehabilitation of hearing loss and auditory injury.
The HCE is mandated to establish and maintain the “Joint Hearing and Auditory System Injury Registry (JHASIR) to identify and track active service members and veterans with hearing related injuries and provide access to related clinical and procedural information.
The HCE Informatics Directorate is responsible for the development and operation of JHASIR in consultation with audiologists, otolaryngologists, and other DOD and VA specialists and to ensure that treatment-critical data is available to manage injuries across the continuum of care.
The Registry has access to outcome analysis tools such as DOD’s “Occupational and Environmental Health Readiness System Hearing Conservation” database, the existing TBI registries, and the Joint Theater Trauma Registry (JTTR).
HCE assists outlying facilities and first responders by providing critical information such as baseline testing mechanisms, telemedicine consultations, and also works to establish outreach guidance via telehealth resources.
The information gathered from active duty service members, disabled, or injured veterans with service-related tinnitus, hearing and auditory issues is made available to the appropriate DOD and VA personnel. They are able to study where there are gaps in treatment, what further research needs to be done, preventative measures to take, patterns of injury, improvements in diagnostics, therapeutic modalities, as well as identify devices needed to treat and prevent hearing loss and auditory injuries.
For more information, go to http://hearing.health.mil/.