Acute Hearing Deficits associated with Weapons Exposure in Section 734 Blast Overpressure Study (BOS)

Devon Kulinski*, Walter Carr, Bradley A. Garfield*, Jonathan Salib*, Coral Dirks*, Benjamin Sheffield, Douglas S. Brungart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: This prospective, multi-site, observational study describes ongoing efforts in support of the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Section 734 Blast Overpressure Study (BOS) to identify the acute effects impulse and blast exposure have on hearing abilities of the Warfighter in various military training environments. Materials and Methods: Hearing thresholds, a binaural tone detection task, and auditory symptoms were collected before and immediately following weapons exposure across nine military training environments from January 2020 to October 2022. An additional 25 non-exposed control participants also completed the behavioral test battery. A boothless audiometer was used to measure hearing ability in the field. Sound level meters were attached on-body to record the exposure environment throughout training. Results: Mean threshold change for the blast-exposed group was worse than the control group. Of the 188 blast-exposed participants, 23 experienced a temporary threshold shift (TTS) acutely after exposure. A decrease in binaural tone detection performance and increased symptom severity was found when comparing blast-exposed participants with a TTS versus those without a significant change in hearing. A complex but consistent relationship between measured exposure level (LAeq8hr) and the magnitude of the resulting TTS is suggested in the available data. Conclusions: Recent discussions on Section 734 studies examining the effects of repetitive blast exposure have indicated that hearing-related issues were a critical problem that needed additional research. Study outcomes provide highly repeatable results across various weapons systems with hazardous blast exposure. This standardized set of hearing assessment tools for evaluating acute effects of noise under field conditions has been critically important in improving our understanding of TTS in prospective human subject research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)666-673
Number of pages8
JournalMilitary Medicine
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2023
Externally publishedYes


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