Increasing Hearing Readiness Using Boothless Audiometry

Benjamin Sheffield, Devon Kulinski, Jaclyn Schurman, La Guinn Sherlock, Victoria Bugtong, Michele Spencer, Christopher Caldwell, Douglas Brungart, John Merkley, Amy Blank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: U.S. Army regulations require all soldiers to undergo annual audiometric testing to maintain hearing readiness. The standard method of monitoring hearing in the DoD is via multi-person testing in sound-treated booths using the Defense Occupational and Environmental Health Readiness System—Hearing Conservation. COVID-19 significantly hindered the standard method, resulting in alarming declines in hearing readiness. In response, the Army Hearing Program initiated a pilot program to use boothless audiometers to supplement standard methods to increase hearing readiness. Materials and Methods: Funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act was used to purchase 169 boothless audiometers and increase staffing at dozens of Army Hearing Program clinics. Standard operating procedures were established for audiometric testing outside the booth using a process matching standard test parameters (i.e., test frequencies, tone characteristics, and interstimulus intervals). Additional capabilities developed to leverage this new technology during the annual hearing exam include the administration of automated contralateral masking, enhanced tinnitus screening, and hearing health education and training. Results: Monitoring audiometry using boothless audiometers has been conducted for nearly 12,000 service members worldwide. Thresholds obtained via boothless audiometers are comparable to follow-up thresholds obtained from the standard test methods in the booth (mean difference 95% CI, −1.2, 0.9), and hearing readiness has returned to pre-pandemic levels at installations where this novel technology is being used regularly. Conclusions: Significant reductions in patient encounters as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic have led to innovative solutions leveraging boothless audiometers. While this has aided the primary mission to maintain a medically ready force, innovations from this endeavor highlight several additional improvements relative to current standards of care that should be considered for permanent inclusion in DoD Hearing Conservation Programs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)529-535
Number of pages7
JournalMilitary Medicine
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2023
Externally publishedYes


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