Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Mobile hearing test system enables quicker diagnosis, treatment

Military personnel during a hearing test Army Lt. Col. Jillyen Curry-Mathis, senior audiologist for the XVIII Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, tests a Soldier’s hearing using boothless technology while in an Army field litter ambulance. The mobile hearing test system was successfully demonstrated by the Army during a recent deployment to Iraq, and is now being considered for use in multiple settings. (Courtesy of XVIII ABN Corps)

Recommended Content:

Centers of Excellence | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention

A new portable hearing test technology advanced by Department of Defense researchers is capable of assessing and diagnosing hearing health far forward on the battlefield, as well as in a clinic setting, vastly improving access to care and enabling quicker diagnosis and treatment of injury.

The aptly dubbed "boothless" technology can take audiometry out of the traditional sound booth to meet service members where hearing injuries are most likely to occur.

The initial prototype project, called the Integrated Platform for Clinical Assessment and Monitoring, is the result of a Defense Health Agency Hearing Center of Excellence research effort, led by Dr. Douglas Brungart, from the National Military Audiology and Speech Center at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland; and conducted in collaboration with the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command and the Army Public Health Center. HCE is a division of the DHA Research and Development Directorate.

The Wireless Automated Hearing Test System, or WAHTS, consists of a headset, a computer tablet or laptop with custom hearing-related software and an integrated dosimeter.

Dr. Theresa Schulz, HCE's prevention and surveillance branch chief, explained that the military services are pilot-testing boothless audiometry in a variety of remote environments to determine future viability of the technology.

As part of a proof of concept effort, the Army recently deployed an active-duty audiologist overseas with boothless technology, yielding excellent results, according to Schulz. As a result, it is now being considered for implementation in multiple settings, such as point-of-injury care in remote locations and military operational environments.

According to Schulz, a combat medic trained to use boothless audiometry can deliver hearing care at the lowest level of care (point of injury) to the highest (advanced trauma) within the military deployed theater of operations. Point of injury hearing care can help to facilitate immediate treatment and appropriate triage of service members who require more comprehensive hearing care, Schulz explained.

"Boothless audiometry enables audiologists to conduct hearing tests without a traditional sound booth," said Schulz. "It can be used to conduct hearing screenings and diagnostic audiometry in military deployed environments, as well as pharmacy waiting areas, in-patient care settings, and primary care clinics that don't typically have sound booth facilities. It can help identify significant hearing loss early, supporting timelier referral for comprehensive audiological services to treat and prevent additional hearing loss."

By providing hearing health services during primary care patient encounters, Schulz noted it is possible to increase patient-provider satisfaction and improve treatment outcomes in general.

Moreover, early identification of hearing loss for service members is a readiness item of interest, according to the DOD. Of more than 425 DOD military hospitals and clinics only 102 of them have audiology services, leaving beneficiaries at the other 323 to rely on their local TRICARE service providers for their hearing services.

Military personnel during a hearing test
Audiologist Devon Kulinski, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, uses a boothless audiometry system to test the hearing of a Marine taking part in exercise Operation Rolling Thunder at Fort Benning, Georgia in October 2020 (Photo by: Quintin Hecht, DHA Hearing Center of Excellence).

Schulz emphasized boothless audiometry can help to bridge this gap, and increase access to hearing health care services.

For providers who treat patients with diabetes mellitus, the boothless system is showing promise as a way to early identify hearing loss, which is twice as common in adults with diabetes compared to those without the condition, according to a National Institutes of Health study.

To address this concern, HCE and the Diabetes Center of Excellence at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas, are conducting a quality improvement project that incorporates hearing loss screening at DCOE using boothless audiometry during routine clinic appointments for patients with diabetes. While the project was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Carlos Esquivel, HCE's acting division chief, reports that early data has demonstrated boothless audiometry can be successfully incorporated into different clinical settings.

"The screening battery has helped to identify patients with a potential hearing loss, who were then referred to the appropriate providers for further evaluation," said Esquivel.

Outside of the clinic setting, military researchers have also used boothless audiometry at several sites for a variety of studies, according to Esquivel.

In collaboration with military research investigators based in San Diego, California and San Antonio, Texas, HCE researchers employed the boothless WAHTS system at various clinical and occupational audiology clinics to gather information about the hearing health status of study participants without interrupting clinic flow and expediting testing procedures.

In another project, the portable WAHTS system is supporting a multi-site field study, called Characterization of Acute or Short-term Acquired Military Population Auditory Shifts (CHASMPAS), headed by WRNMMC. The CHASMPAS researchers are conducting in-field hearing evaluations using WAHTS to characterize short-term changes in hearing among military personnel exposed to blasts.

"Boothless audiometry enables CHASMPAS researchers to evaluate hearing sensitivity and performance in the field environment immediately before and after high-noise and blast exposures," said Esquivel. "Expeditious, field-based assessment ensures faster hearing evaluation without taking troops out of the training environment."

With the goal to increase awareness and use of boothless audiometry, HCE established the joint DOD and Department of Veterans Affairs Boothless Audiometry Networking Group, or BANG, in September 2020. The goal of BANG is to collaborate and advance the use of boothless audiometry across the DOD and VA to increase timely access to hearing health services for service members and veterans.

From austere and remote environments, to clinic settings and beyond, boothless audiometry is proving to have multiple applications and value for future hearing health care.

"We will continue to advance and support the refinement of boothless audiometry through future research studies and quality improvement projects," said Esquivel. "Essentially, it can take hearing health care to where it is needed."

You also may be interested in...

Hearing Center of Excellence: Ear Protection

Video
10/26/2021
HCE Ear Protection

Tips for protecting your hearing using the proper protection.

Recommended Content:

October Toolkit | Audiology Awareness Month | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention | Centers of Excellence

Acute Concussion Pathway of Care: MACE 2 and PRA Training

Publication
10/26/2021

The Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence is hosting a combined Military Acute Concussion Evaluation (MACE 2) and Progressive Return to Activity (PRA) clinical recommendation virtual training.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Provider Resources | TBI Education and Training Events | TBI Educators | Centers of Excellence

Assessment and Management of Dizziness and Visual Disturbances Following Concussion/Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

Publication
10/22/2021

This clinical recommendation provides medical staff with a single, comprehensive reference for the assessment and management of dizziness and visual disturbances following mild TBI/concussion. Dizziness and visual disturbances often present with overlapping symptoms and should prompt a provider to perform a visual and dizziness—or vestibular—assessment.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Provider Resources | TBI Resources | Centers of Excellence

Improving Relationships after TBI

Publication
10/21/2021

Flier for the Interactive Relationship Building Workshop for Active-Duty Military and Veteran TBI Caregivers and Families: This flier provides information on TBICoE's educational session for caregivers of active-duty service members and veterans who have sustained a TBI. In addition to sharing caregiver resources and current research initiatives, webinar topics will also include relationship building strategies, improving communication and addressing intimacy after TBI.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Patient and Family Resources | Provider Resources | Centers of Excellence | TBI Resources

2000-Q2 2021 DOD Worldwide Numbers for TBI

Publication
10/14/2021

TBICoE is the Defense Department’s office of responsibility for tracking traumatic brain injury data in the U.S. military. Here you’ll find data on the number of active-duty service members—anywhere U.S. forces are located—with a first-time TBI diagnosis from calendar year 2000 through the second quarter of 2021. The data is also broken down by each branch of the armed services.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | DOD TBI Worldwide Numbers | Centers of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury

Veteran Prosthetic

Photo
9/14/2021
Retired U.S. Army Sgt. Derek Weida jokes with a physician during his prosthetic leg fitting at a prosthetics clinic in Las Vegas in April 2018.

Retired U.S. Army SGT Derek Weida jokes with a physician during his prosthetic leg fitting at a prosthetics clinic in Las Vegas in April 2018.

Recommended Content:

Centers of Excellence | 20th Anniversary of 9/11: Call-to-Action

Caregiver Guide supports service members and veterans with TBI

Article
7/22/2021
Military family posing for a picture

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence’s 2021 Caregiver Guide provides specific tools to help caregivers manage TBI patient recovery.

Recommended Content:

Centers of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury | TBI Education and Training Events

Military Laser Eye Surgery: Enhancing Vision Readiness

Article
7/12/2021
Military health personnel looking at wavescan results

Enhancing vision readiness through laser eye surgery is now available at 26 military medical treatment facilities.

Recommended Content:

Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness

Ask the Doc: Eye Need Answers

Article
7/8/2021
Senior Airman Mitchel Delfosse, 22nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron electrical environmental system journeyman, attends an eye exam appointment Jan. 30, 2020, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. Maj. (Dr.) Gerardo Robles-Morales, 22nd Operational Medical Readiness Squadron optometry flight commander, recommends an eye exam a minimum of every two years to ensure overall eye health and correct vision. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexi Bosarge)

Dear Doc: I consider myself pretty lucky. I'm in my late 20s and I've never had any eye problems to speak of. I have 20/20 vision and I've never worn glasses. But...the Air Force tells me to protect my eyes and I'm not exactly sure what that means. Do you know anyone who can give me some solid advice on the best options for eye protection? What should I be wearing at work or on the flight line? What should I be wearing out in the sun? I know I have a lot of questions, but I just want to protect myself as best as possible. Thanks in advance, Doc! -Eye Need Answers

Recommended Content:

Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention | Ask The Doc

Aphasia, Caused by Stroke or TBI, is Frustrating and Little Known

Article
6/29/2021
A doctor looking at brain scans

Aphasia is an incurable disease usually caused by stroke that affects all forms of communication.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Heart Health | Centers of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury

NICoE Education Webinar Series: July Poster

Publication
6/25/2021

Service Members and TBI: The Not So Invisible Wound

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | TBI Education and Training Events | Centers of Excellence

Vision Care Service Coordinators Support Ocular Care Management

Article
6/24/2021
Military health personnel giving an eye appointment

Vision care service coordinators support eye injury and vision loss patient recovery.

Recommended Content:

Centers of Excellence | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention

Retinopathy of Prematurity, Important Focus for Military Eye Doctors

Article
6/23/2021
Health personnel conducting a morning assessment on an infant

Retinopathy of Prematurity is a little-known disease with big risks.

Recommended Content:

Children's Health | Electronic Health Record: MHS GENESIS | Centers of Excellence

Patients Contribute to Shape Future Hearing Loss Treatment

Article
6/21/2021
Barbara Kelly from the Hearing Loss Association of America hosting a meeting

Patient-focused meeting could lead to improved hearing loss therapies

Recommended Content:

Centers of Excellence | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention | Hearing and Balance Injuries | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention

Cataracts Concern Battle Fighters, the Aging

Article
6/21/2021
A doctor performing cataract surgery

Traumatic cataracts can occur during battlefield injuries, but they are largely avoidable in non-combat situations.

Recommended Content:

Centers of Excellence | | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention
<< < 1 2 3 4 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 4

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.