Development of Auditory Fitness-for-Duty Standards
Hearing is a critical skill for the survivability, mission-success, and long-term health of an active duty service member. Hearing screening measures in the current fitness for duty standard are insufficient to predict speech understanding and operational performance in a variety of mission-specific background noises and levels. It remains difficult to understand how a service member’s performance in standard clinical audiological tests translates to performance in the daily tasks required of their military occupational specialty.
The long-term aim of this research is to develop and evaluate realistic hearing tests that provide useful information to decision-making authorities regarding listening and communication capabilities of service members in various military environments. Clinical tests developed in this project will be validated by conducting field studies aimed at measuring operational performance in military-like environments as a function of hearing acuity. In the field studies, we are incorporating a novel approach based on simulated hearing loss. Electronic hearing loss simulation systems are used to systematically vary the effective hearing acuity of trained soldiers while they are conducting militarily-relevant training tasks. Participants conduct their training missions in a safe and relatively unconstrained way and the effect of simulated hearing loss are measured for performance metrics such as the probability of mission success, lethality, survivability, and the amount of time required to achieve mission objectives.