The A - Z Guide: Veterans VA Disability Benefits
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Veterans VA Disability Benefits
Hearing Impairment & Tinnitus

It is our experience that your claim for tinnitus and hearing loss will be denied.
We receive many emails from frustrated veterans on this topic.

Vets who have Purple Hearts or CIB's are often denied a hearing loss or tinnitus claim because they have no record of combat. We often read that the VA audiologist who conducted the exam reports that the veteran was not cooperative.
We recommend that you plan to appeal as it is more likely than not going to be required. The majority of appeals are handily won at the DRO Process appeal.
We also recommend that you seek a reputable civilian audiologist to perform an examination. You will probably have to pay for the exam out of pocket. This is an investment that is well worth the fee.
Hearing aids are expensive. If your hearing was damaged because of your service to our country, don't accept a denial or a low rating.

Hearing Impairment

Hearing loss affects many veterans. From the first day of basic training we were subjected to noises that most civilians will never hear.

The Veterans Administration has strict regulations governing hearing loss and disability compensation. The veteran who wants to see a benefits award must be prepared to fight and appeal.

§ 4.85  Evaluation of hearing impairment. (h) Numeric tables VI, VIA*, and VII.

The VA uses a strictly defined criteria to determine the degree of hearing loss. An examination for hearing loss must be conducted by a licensed audiologist and include controlled speech discrimination test (Maryland CNC) and a puretone audiometry test.

The results of the tests are then calculated according to a system of tables to arrive at a percentage of the disability attributed to hearing loss.

The veteran who is applying for a hearing loss benefit should consider the degree of tinnitus that he or she may have that often accompanies acoustic trauma and hearing loss.

Also to be considered are any psychological or mental health and safety considerations that sometimes result from hearing loss. If the veteran believes that hearing loss and tinnitus have caused or aggravated anxiety, anger, depression, PTSD or otherwise contributed to a loss in the quality of the veteran's activities of daily living, those facts should be recorded for consideration.

Here's a very good web page that will explain a lot about hearing loss. As with most discussions of hearing loss, it's complex and technical. Be prepared to spend some time studying. Click the link below;

Deafness, or hearing impairment, is a partial or total inability to hear where the ability would usually be expected. 

The Institute of Medicine (IOM)  

Noise and Military Service: Implications for Hearing Loss and Tinnitus      

Hearing loss, tinnitus, and other auditory complaints among military veterans are common and costly, with more than 75,000 cases of auditory impairment among new recipients of VA compensation in 2003, and estimated payments at an annual rate of $850 million at the end of 2004 to veterans with hearing loss and tinnitus as their major disability.

The Institute of Medicine carried out a study mandated by Congress and sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide an assessment of several issues related to noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus associated with service in the Armed Forces since World War II.

The resulting report, titled Noise and Military Service: Implications for Hearing Loss and Tinnitus, provides findings regarding the presence of hazardous noise in military settings, levels of noise exposure necessary to cause hearing loss or tinnitus, risk factors and timing of the effects of noise exposure, and the adequacy of military hearing conservation programs and audiometric testing.  The report recommends steps to improve prevention of and surveillance for hearing loss and tinnitus, and stresses the importance of conducting hearing tests (audiograms) at the beginning and end of military service for all military personnel. The report also outlines areas where additional research is needed, including topics specifically related to military service.

Tinnitus is a frequent companion to hearing loss.

Acoustic trauma can cause many types of damage to your inner ear. Tinnitus is a separate condition from hearing loss.

This is a good page that describes what tinnitus is. Click the link below;

Tinnitus; from the Latin word tinnītus meaning "ringing" is the perception of sound within the human ear in the absence of corresponding external sound.  

Does your hearing loss make you eligible to claim a secondary disability for mental health conditions? Maybe.
Service connection may be established on a secondary basis for a disability that is proximately due to, the result of, or aggravated by a service-connected disease or injury. 38 C.F.R. § 3.310(a). Establishing service connection on a secondary basis requires (1) competent evidence (a medical diagnosis) of current chronic disability; (2) evidence of a service-connected disability; and (3) competent evidence that the current disability was either (a) caused by or (b) aggravated by a service-connected disability. 38 C.F.R. § 3.310(a); see also Allen v. Brown, 7 Vet. App. 439 (1995) (en banc). The determination as to whether these requirements are met is based on an analysis of all the evidence of record and the evaluation of its credibility and probative value. Baldwin v. West, 13 Vet. App. 1 (1999); 38 C.F.R. § 3.303(a).

Link between Hearing Loss and Depression Highlighted

The Board of Veterans Appeals has awarded numerous claims of depression secondary to hearing loss.

Board of Veterans Appeals: Citation Nr: 1139373

Service connection for depression secondary to service-connected hearing loss and tinnitus, is granted, on the basis of aggravation.

Board of Veterans Appeals: Citation Nr: 1116719

Service connection for adjustment disorder with depressed mood, as secondary to the service-connected hearing loss, is granted.

Board of Veterans Appeals: Citation Nr: 1101172

Service connection for reactive depression is granted.

Board of Veterans Appeals: Citation Nr: 1003291

Service connection for an acquired psychiatric disorder, as secondary to service-connected bilateral hearing loss, is granted.

Hearing Loss in Older Adults — Its Effect on Mental Health

How To File A Claim For A Secondary Condition

More suffer from hearing loss than expected, study shows

The Bottom Line:

We believe that most claims for hearing loss and tinnitus are wrongly denied.

Although this is frustrating, the veteran should not let this deter him or her from filing a claim. The claim should be filed with the understanding that an appeal is likely to be necessary.

Most claims are won in the first appeal. Although this may add a year or more to the already lengthy process, the claim will pay the veteran retroactively back to the date that the claim was filed.

If you believe that your hearing loss or tinnitus was caused by your military service, you should proceed to file a claim now.