Hearing Kiosk provides education, testing
February 21, 2012
According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, noise-induced hearing loss is among the most common disabilities affecting Veterans. The VA pays more than $1.2 billion annually in compensation costs for hearing loss and tinnitus. In an effort to make a difference in hearing loss prevention and education, the VA and the National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research are funding a research project to test community-based hearing kiosks for screening and education.
"The ultimate outcome would be some way to measure a reduction in hearing loss and hearing related claims through the VA system," said Dr. Dale Ostler, the Army Hearing Program officer at Western Regional Medical Command.
That project has placed three, large, sound-attenuated booths, to include one at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Waller Hall, for the use of any service member, Family member or ID-card holder. The booths house a touch-screen where participants can work through a number of activities including a short or comprehensive hearing test with the option to print results to take to your medical care provider. It also includes a series of educational pieces on types of hearing protection, what causes hearing loss, what it sounds like to have hearing loss and to learn more about tinnitus to name a few. The free service can last only a few minutes or as long as the participant would like to spend in the booth.
"It's a self-administered, touch screen, take it at your own pace system," said Ostler. "You can go through any number of modules that would educate you on hearing and hearing-related concerns. The hearing test is less than five minutes and the modules are only a few minutes each. If you did them all it would take 20 minutes at the most."
In the year it has been operational only about 300 participants have visited the booth. Organizers hope to increase this number and the awareness of hearing protection.
"The intent is to provide education about what causes hearing loss and to prevent hearing loss so that our current group of servicemembers who are going to become veterans will have a reduction in claims and an increase in quality of life," said Ostler. "A lot of these servicemembers have been exposed to hazardous levels of noise."
The kiosk is funded through a Joint Incentive Fund grant. The other two kiosks are located at Ft. Stewart, Ga., and at the Portland Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Oregon.
"It's a great informational resource to answer questions about hearing health care at the disposal of the community," said Maj. David Pedersen, the chief of Joint Base Lewis-Mcchord's hearing program.
Outside the booth is a small station where patrons can test how loud their personal stereo is playing. For example, a participant could turn their MP3 player on to their normal volume level, plug one of the headphones into the artificial ear on the side of the kiosk, and get a reading of how many decibels it is putting out. This helps to demonstrate if you are listening to music at an intensity level that could be detrimental to your hearing. Also located outside the booth is a large 40" screen that displays silent video clips describing the booth and activities available.
The artificial ear can be useful to educate teenagers who are not aware of what that loud music is doing to their hearing.
"Kids who have been listening to their MP3 players at a young age are exposing themselves to a tremendous amount of noise levels that a generation ago wasn't happening," said Ostler.
For more information about the booth or the Hearing Program for active duty servicemembers or civil service personnel at JBLM please call (253) 968-3431. Family members can receive more information about hearing education or services by calling the Madigan Healthcare System Audiology Service at (253) 968-1420.