Federal Agencies' Research and Treatment Activities

HRD-88-50FS: Published: Mar 3, 1988. Publicly Released: Mar 18, 1988.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO determined the extent to which federal agencies sponsor research on and provide treatment for tinnitus.

GAO found that: (1) the National Institutes of Health (NIH) does not consider tinnitus a high priority relative to other hearing disorders; (2) since 1981, NIH had funded six research grants totalling more than $2.2 million and one contract for $404,000; (3) the Veterans Administration (VA) funded eight projects involving tinnitus research; and (4) under congressional direction, the Department of Education awarded a 5-year grant for $4,785,000 to establish a research center for the hearing-impaired. GAO also found that: (1) VA was the only federal agency that maintained data on its tinnitus treatments; (2) VA discharged 38 veterans with tinnitus as the principal problem and 653 with tinnitus as the secondary problem in 1986; and (3) about 42,000 veterans with tinnitus received benefits in 1986, although tinnitus was not necessarily the only or primary disability. GAO believes that revised regulations establishing the degree of hearing loss necessary for benefit entitlement should result in a more equitable basis for determining disability benefits.

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