Government and Regulations

Protecting Sensory Health

The Hearing Center of Excellence and Vision Center of Excellence, both focused on improving sensory health across DoD and VA, are joining forces during the month of May.


Most service-related hearing and vision injuries are preventable, according to the leaders of the Hearing Center of Excellence (HCE) and Vision Center of Excellence (VCE). Since 2008, the centers have been jointly focused on improving sensory health across the DoD and VA through collaboration, education, and prevention. The centers have collaborated on ways to ignite a dialogue about the importance of vision and hearing safety and on strategies to protect the eyes and ears.

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“Service members and leaders understand that hearing is really critical for survival,” Lynn W. Henselman, PhD, HCE deputy director told Federal Practitioner. “To keep that sense as intact as possible is so important for mission accomplishment.”

“What many fail to realize is that most eye injuries are preventable,” explained Captain Penny E. Walter, VCE executive director and Glenn C. Cockerham, MD, VCE interim deputy director in an e-mail correspondence. “Eye protection will shield against most hazards, like flying debris, and wearing them can save your sight.”

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During the month of May, the 2 centers are joining forces. According to Col Mark Packer, MD, HCE executive director, polytraumatic blast injuries from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are often multisensory. “As the patient rolls through the rehabilitation process, the patient is seeing multiple caregivers for multiple problems,” Packer said. “Integrating that care into a combined platform is important.”

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Officials at both centers emphasize that their efforts to coordinate care and cooperate also include the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury and the Extremity Trauma and Amputation Center of Excellence. Both HCE and VCE are developing registries to increase data sharing on sensory injuries and diseases across the VA and DoD. In addition, VCE plans to expand its ocular trauma video teleconference program to offer consultations and training for remote locations.

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