More than 28 million Americans are affected by hearing loss; more than half of those over age 75.
Hearing problems, including the ringing or buzzing sensation known as tinnitus, are the most common service-connected disability among veterans.
If you are a veteran, you may be able to receive VA disability benefits for hearing loss or tinnitus. The team at The Law Offices of Michael Hartup explains what the VA can do for you and your service-associated hearing conditions below.
If you need further assistance applying for disability benefits, our attorneys at Michael Hartup are ready to help. Call our Jackson, Tennessee office at (731) 424-5559 or fill out a contact form online.
About Hearing Loss and Tinnitus
Around 466 million people around the world have disabling hearing loss. Disabling hearing loss means hearing loss greater than 40 decibels (dB) in adults and 30 dB in children. Compare that to a person with normal hearing, who has hearing thresholds of 25 dB or better in both ears.
Hearing problems can range from mild or moderate to severe or profound. It can affect one or both ears. Those who are “hard of hearing” experience hearing loss ranging from mild to severe.
People who are hard of hearing may use hearing aids, cochlear implants or other assistive devices. Those who are deaf typically have profound hearing loss, and often use sign language to communicate.
Causes of Hearing Loss or Tinnitus in Veterans
With veterans, hearing loss and tinnitus can be caused by noise exposure to gunfire, tanks, bombs or aircraft noise.
Hearing problems can also occur due to age, or a combination of both noise exposure and age. Veterans are 30 percent more likely than nonveterans to have severe hearing impairment as well.
Even though hearing protection is mandatory and standard issue for all active-duty service members, hearing loss can still occur.
The good news is, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs can help. Nearly 3 million veterans receive compensation for tinnitus or hearing loss.
Disability Ratings for Hearing Impairment
To receive disability compensation for hearing loss, you must first prove that you are eligible for benefits. The VA requires that you:
- Served on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training, and
- Have a disability rating for your service-connected condition
The VA calculates your disability rating, a percentage based on the severity of your disability, by looking at your medical history, including any test results or doctor reports, as well as information from other sources, like federal agencies or a VA claim exam if you’ve undergone one.
The VA Schedule of Ratings Disabilities shows that mild or moderate hearing loss can range from 0% to 10%, while severe hearing loss may range from 30% to 50%.
The rating for tinnitus is 10%, which is assigned regardless of whether it affects one or both ears. However, you can receive individual ratings for hearing loss and tinnitus.
Proving a Service-Connected Condition
In addition to military service and disability rating, you must also prove that your hearing problems:
- Occurred while serving in the military, or
- Worsened during your service, or
- Showed up after you ended your military service
You need to supply the VA with evidence that proves one of these is true. Evidence might include reports of an event in your service that caused or worsened your condition, medical opinions linking your hearing loss to the event, and a current diagnosis of your condition.
You’ll need to take hearing loss tests by a state-licensed audiologist to prove that your condition is service-connected. There are two tests you must take.
A controlled speech discrimination test (also called the Maryland CNC test) to evaluate speech recognition ability, and a pure tone audiometry test to evaluate your hearing loss level.
Even if hearing impairment issues don’t show up until you are older, that doesn’t mean you’ll be denied benefits. You may still be able to prove that your hearing loss is service-connected and not solely based on age.
How a Disability Lawyer Can Help You Apply for VA Benefits
You’re not legally required to have a lawyer file for disability benefits. You can file an application online, by mail, or in person at a VA regional office near you.
However, having an experienced disability lawyer on your side has advantages. As we’ve discussed, you need to provide evidence from many sources that your hearing impairment is connected to your military service.
Gathering evidence on your own can be time-consuming and overwhelming. A VA Disability lawyer can help you put together the right documents for your application.
Plus, your disability rating must be at least 10% to receive disability compensation. If you receive a rating that you feel is too low, or your initial application for disability benefits is denied, an attorney can help you apply for a rating increase or appeal your claim.
Disability attorney Michael Hartup is committed to helping veterans in Tennessee receive the disability compensation they deserve for their service.
To apply for VA disability benefits with our attorneys’ help, call our Jackson, Tennessee office at (731) 513-5283 or fill out a contact form online. You may also like and follow the Michael Hartup Facebook page for resources on veterans’ disabilities, news and more.