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New course aims to reduce military hearing loss

Maj. Malisha Martukovich, Air Force liaison for the DoD Hearing Center of Excellence, tests out the new HEAR course app, which can be downloaded onto a smartphone or tablet for convenient access. (DoD HCE photo) Maj. Malisha Martukovich, Air Force liaison for the DoD Hearing Center of Excellence, tests out the new HEAR course app, which can be downloaded onto a smartphone or tablet for convenient access. (DoD HCE photo)

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The Department of Defense Hearing Center of Excellence (HCE), in collaboration with the Army Game Studio and subject matter experts from all service branches, developed an interactive course to ensure service members receive hearing loss prevention training earlier and throughout their careers. 

Called the Hearing Education and Readiness (HEAR) course, the standardized training informs service members about the risks of exposure to hazardous noise, the negative impacts of noise-induced hearing loss, and effective strategies to help reduce the risk.  The training also outlines regulations and standards for service members and DoD civilians enrolled in a Hearing Conservation Program as determined by their service branch.

Tinnitus and hearing loss have remained among the top disabilities of veterans leaving the service, calling for more comprehensive and frequent education to increase awareness of the risk within the military community. In 2017, the Veterans Benefits Administration reported there were 1.6 million and 1.1 million veterans receiving disability compensation in Fiscal Year 2016 for tinnitus and hearing loss, respectively.

Lt. Col. John Merkley, chief of the Army Hearing Division, Army Public Health Center, demonstrates the HEAR course to Army audiologists during the 3rd Annual Army Public Health Course in August 2018. (U.S. Army photo)
Lt. Col. John Merkley, chief of the Army Hearing Division, Army Public Health Center, demonstrates the HEAR course to Army audiologists during the 3rd Annual Army Public Health Course in August 2018. (U.S. Army photo)

“Noise is ubiquitous and hearing is a critical sense,” said Air Force Col. LaKeisha Henry, division chief for the HCE. “The goal of the HEAR training is to reduce the incidence of noise-induced hearing loss and increase hearing readiness to ensure operational and mission success for all service members. An added benefit is improved accessibility of the training for at-risk personnel, who now will be able to more easily obtain this required education.”  

The four-module HEAR course has been disseminated across the DoD, and also made available for service members via the Joint Knowledge Online training portal. Course highlights include a required training portion designed for both military and noise-exposed civilian personnel, a scenario exercise, leadership module, and additional optional lessons.       

In tandem with the online course, the HCE released a HEAR app in July, which is a compressed version of the course, currently available under Google Play.  The 10-minute app version can be loaded onto a smartphone or tablet to deliver quick and convenient education at the time of a service member’s periodic hearing test.  The app is searchable on Android devices by typing “hearing education”.  Plans are also underway to develop an iTunes version for Apple devices, according to Henry.

For more about hearing health education, visit https://hearing.health.mil.    

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