Pre-enlistment hearing loss and hearing loss disability among US soldiers and marines
Noise and Health
Hearing loss is a common condition among US adults, with some evidence of increasing prevalence in young adults. Noise-induced hearing loss attributable to employment is a significant source of preventable morbidity world-wide. The US military population is largely comprised of young adult males serving in a wide variety of occupations, many in high noise-level conditions, at least episodically. To identify accession and service-related risk factors for hearing-related disability, matched
... lity, matched case-control study of US military personnel was conducted. Individuals evaluated for hearing loss disability in the US Army and Marine Corps were frequency matched to controls without history of disability evaluation on service and enlistment year. Conditional logistic regression was used to examine the association between accession and service-related factors and hearing-related disability evaluations between October 2002 and September 2010. Individuals with medically disqualifying audiograms or hearing loss diagnoses at application for military service were 8 and 4 times more likely, respectively, to have a disability evaluation related to hearing loss, after controlling for relevant accession, demographic, and service-related factors. Conservative hearing loss thresholds on pre-enlistment audiograms, stricter hearing loss medical waiver policies or qualified baseline audiograms pre-enlistment are needed in the U.S military. Industrial corporations or labor unions may also benefit from identifying individuals with moderate hearing loss at the time of employment to ensure use of personal protective equipment and engineer controls of noise.