Hearing: Military Medical Standards for Enlistment

Hearing Test

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Gaining entrance into the military requires numerous screenings of every part of the body to include hearing and the ears. Any issues that prevent healthy hearing ability or prevents a person from properly donning the required protective gear (helmet, ear, eye, or face protection) will be disqualifying. Here are the details of the disqualifying medical conditions listed below related to the ear and hearing.

The causes for rejection for appointment, enlistment, and induction (without an approved waiver) are an authenticated history of issues wor disease with the following parts of the ear.

External Ear

What we see as the ear must be within the military standard. Primarily, prevention of the auditory canal due to malformation of the external ear or interferes with the proper wearing of hearing protection is disqualifying for military service. Congenital defects such as atresia which is the absence or abnormal narrowing of an opening or passage in the body or microtia which is a deformity where the pinna (external ear) is underdeveloped are categorized under this category. However, chronic otitis externa which is swimmer's ear can also be disqualified at the time of medical review. 


Any history of mastoiditis which is a bacterial infection that affects the mastoid bone. This bone behind the ear is very delicate and is the rarest of all ear infections and requires frequent cleaning and chronic drainage. These with any fistula (abnormal or surgically made passage) are disqualifying. 

Any external deformity that prevents or interferes with the proper use of a protective mask, hearing protection, or helmet is disqualifying. 

Meniere's Disease

Any current or history of Meniere's syndrome or other chronic diseases of the inner ear is disqualifying. Meniere's a disease of unknown cause affecting the inner ear, causing progressive deafness and attacks of tinnitus and vertigo.

Middle and Inner Ear

If a candidate has a current or chronic history of acute otitis media (AOM) which is a painful type of ear infection behind the eardrum the candidate could be disqualified. Any cholesteatoma which is an abnormal, noncancerous skin growth that can develop in the middle section of your ear, behind the eardrum and likely require surgery or cochlear implants is disqualifying. However, successful myringotomy or tympanoplasty which are ear tube procedures or eardrum repair respectively are NOT disqualifying. Medical approval of the surgery, post-surgery notes will be required at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) or Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board (DODMERB) Screening. 

Tympanic Membrane

Also called the eardrum, any puncture, perforation of the tympanic member or recent history (120 days) of surgical procedures to correct the issue is disqualifying. After 120 days, any procedure will have to get approval from military medical professionals at the candidates or recruits medical screening. Loud explosions, SCUBA diving, and other loud noises or pressures can commonly cause eardrum damage that is typically temporarily disqualifying. Avoid shooting, loud music, SCUBA diving, or deep diving prior to your medical review as these can easily cause temporary pain and disqualification if the medical physical exam is done shortly after these events. 


Obviously, the most important part of this medical requirement is hearing. Being able to hear without the use of any aid is a requirement for entering the military service. The standards of passing a hearing test are not terribly difficult and only require normal hearing levels. 

Current hearing threshold level in either ear greater than a pure tone of 500,1000, and 2000 cycles per second for each ear of not more than 30 decibels (dB) with no individual level of greater than 35 dB at those frequencies is disqualifying for military service. 

Current hearing threshold level in either ear greater than a pure tone level of not more than 45 dB at 3000 cycles per second or 55dB at 4000 cycles per second for each ear is disqualifying for military service. 

There is not a military hearing standard for 6000 cycles per second, however, any history of hearing aid use is also disqualifying. 

Derived from Department of Defense (DOD) Directive 6130.3, "Physical Standards for Appointment, Enlistment, and Induction," and DOD Instruction 6130.4, "Criteria and Procedure Requirements for Physical Standards for Appointment, Enlistment, or Induction in the Armed Forces."