If you’re a US Veteran who is worried you may have hearing loss, you are not alone. You may be wondering about VA disability for your hearing loss, what compensation you may receive, and if you are able to appeal a rejection.
Hearing loss is the most prevalent service-related injury among disabled Veterans.
According to the Hearing Health Foundation, more than a million Veterans received disability compensation for hearing loss in 2017.
About 1.79 million Veterans received compensation for tinnitus, a hearing condition that causes a ringing, buzzing, or whistling in the ears even when no external noise is present.
In many cases, compensation is available for service-connected hearing problems.
What Causes Hearing Problems Among Veterans and Military Members?
Hearing loss affects more than 28 million Americans.
The average person might suffer hearing loss because of loud music or construction noise. Military and service members, on the other hand, are more at risk for hearing problems than civilians due to the nature of their service.
Among military service members, hearing loss could be the result of prolonged noise exposure to flight lines, aircraft, bombs, tanks, or gunfire. Exposure to these types of sounds can damage the delicate hairs and cells in the inner ear. Once damaged, these microscopic hairs cannot repair themselves.
Blast damage can also cause traumatic brain injury (TBI), a blow to the head that disrupts normal brain function. Some Veterans and military members with TBI reported suffering from hearing loss or tinnitus.
Treatment for Hearing Loss
According to the VA, there are two types of hearing loss: conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss.
Conductive hearing loss is due to damage to the eardrum and middle ear structures. It is reversible with medication or surgery.
Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner ear and auditory nerve. This type of hearing loss is permanent but can be reduced with the use of hearing aids.
Patients might even experience both types of hearing loss.
How Does the VA Define Hearing Loss?
To qualify for disability benefits for hearing loss, you need to prove the condition was caused by your military service.
The following are the requirements for establishing service-connected hearing loss:
- A current diagnosis of a hearing problem
- Evidence of an event that caused the condition during your military service
- A medical opinion linking the hearing condition to the event in service.
Along with the requirements listed above, you need two types of hearing tests to prove a hearing loss claim. These tests include:
- A controlled speech discrimination test. This test (also known as the Maryland CNC test) determines your ability to hear spoken words.
- A pure tone audiometry test. This test detects different tones at low to high frequencies.
Both ears must be tested, even if you only claim hearing loss in one ear. Examinations are conducted without the use of hearing aids. A state-licensed audiologist should perform the tests.
How Does the VA Rate Hearing Problems?
The VA uses a numerical formula to determine the actual disability rating based on the auditory test results. Section 4.85 of the Code of Federal Regulations identifies this formula.
Typical VA ratings for hearing loss are 0% to 10%. Severe hearing loss might qualify for a higher rating.
A 0% disability rating does NOT mean there is no hearing loss. This rating is given when the hearing loss is not considered to be disabling.
If a service member has both hearing loss and tinnitus, each hearing condition may receive different ratings.
A service member who is deaf in both ears due to a service-connected disability may be eligible for an additional cash benefit known as Special Monthly Compensation.
Obtaining Compensation from the VA for Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can be a debilitating, life-long condition for many service members. Unfortunately, filing a claim for hearing loss with the VA can be difficult.
It is not easy to prove that hearing loss is life-changing or to connect the hearing loss to service incidents. Because of this, VA disability claims for hearing loss are often denied or receive a low VA rating.
To obtain compensation from the VA, military members should first file a disability claim for hearing loss. If the claim is denied or you receive a lower-than-expected rating, you should file an appeal with the Board of Veteran’s Appeals.
This is where an experienced, certified VA disability attorney can help.
An attorney will gather evidence of the functional impact your hearing loss has on your daily life or daily work. This information should be factored into the board’s decision and might improve the chance for a higher disability rating.
A VA disability attorney ensures that every detail of your physical state – and the impact of the hearing loss on your daily life – will be made clear to the VA.
Hire a Qualified VA Lawyer
If your hearing loss claim was denied, you might still have a path to compensation.
VanDerGinst Law has certified VA disability attorneys on staff to explore your case. It is our mission to help those to whom we owe a debt of gratitude, including those members of our military and Veterans.
The consultation is free, and you don’t pay attorney fees unless your VA disability claim is successful.
We would be honored to help.
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