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Rapid, Multileveled Assessment of Hearing Dysfunction in Operational and Post-deployment Environments


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Fitness-for-duty requires good hearing and speech communication ability, especially in complex and noisy environments. But despite its crucial role in operational performance, medical and support personnel have no means to rapidly and reliably assess the integrated functioning of the auditory-speech processing system, either in the clinic or in forward remote settings. Furthermore after deployment, over a million Veterans with Service-related hearing disability many of whom are older as well struggle to understand speech in noisy environments such as work meetings or family gatherings, leading to a cascade of physical and mental/emotional health decline. However, because auditory dysfunctions are complex and multi-leveled they remain largely hidden audiologically. Measures using simple sounds and detection-threshold tasks, which inform the present US Army H1-H4 fitness-for-duty profile, fail to predict speech comprehension and job performance in Service members. For this profound military operational need, no assessment tool exists. This research will validate a powerful new EEG diagnostic applicable in austere deployed settings to assess auditory dysfunction as related to hidden hearing loss and central auditory processing disorders (US Patent No. 10,729,387). Our rapid (5-10 min) brain-behavior assessment of listening uses continuous, uniquely engineered speech to differentiate multiple levels of dysfunction from the auditory periphery to cognition, including how these levels interact. This will enable quick screening of Service members in the field for auditory combat-readiness.



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