GAO to DOD: Improve hearing conservation efforts

February 3, 2011

Washington – The Department of Defense needs to improve hazardous noise mitigation efforts, according to a new Government Accountability Office report (.pdf file).

The armed services monitor noise levels, set exposure limits and require the use of hearing protection, but these are not applied consistently and the DOD’s hearing conversation program has several weaknesses, the report stated.

GAO acknowledged that the U.S. military has taken steps to reduce hearing loss among service members, but noted “hearing loss and tinnitus remain conditions that most often require disability compensation for veterans. Yet both are largely preventable.” Hearing loss disability benefits for veterans cost about $1.1 billion annually, according to the report, which was released Jan. 31.

Among the report’s recommendations:

  • Improve the type, timing and tracking of training and educational efforts on hearing protection to service members
  • Develop performance indicators to assess the effectiveness of hearing loss reduction
  • Work with military services to expand service-level initiatives that could improve hearing conservation efforts throughout DOD

In response to the report, DOD concurred with GAO’s findings and said it was in the process of implementing the recommendations.