Hearing loss, tinnitus, and other auditory complaints among military veterans are common and costly, with more than 75,000 cases of auditory impairment among new recipients of VA compensation in 2003, and estimated payments at an annual rate of $850 million at the end of 2004 to veterans with hearing loss and tinnitus as their major disability.
The Institute of Medicine carried out a study mandated by Congress and sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide an assessment of several issues related to noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus associated with service in the Armed Forces since World War II.
The resulting report, titled Noise and Military Service: Implications for Hearing Loss and Tinnitus, provides findings regarding the presence of hazardous noise in military settings, levels of noise exposure necessary to cause hearing loss or tinnitus, risk factors and timing of the effects of noise exposure, and the adequacy of military hearing conservation programs and audiometric testing. The report recommends steps to improve prevention of and surveillance for hearing loss and tinnitus, and stresses the importance of conducting hearing tests (audiograms) at the beginning and end of military service for all military personnel. The report also outlines areas where additional research is needed, including topics specifically related to military service.