If you suffer from hearing loss as a result of your military service, you may qualify for veterans disability benefits. In 2020, the VA approved 61,158 new disability compensation claims from veterans with hearing loss. More importantly, hearing loss is #2 on the list of service-connected disabilities that vets get payments for today. Learn how the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs assigns VA ratings for hearing loss and which tests you need below.
Basic Eligibility Rules for Veterans Disability Benefits
Everyone who applies for VA disability must meet certain basic requirements to qualify for benefits. This is true regardless of what medical issues you’re dealing with, including hearing loss. In order to qualify for VA disability benefits, you must:
- Receive an honorable discharge for your active duty, active-duty training or inactive-duty training military service, AND
- Have a service-connected condition with a VA disability rating ranging somewhere between 0% and 100%.
Not sure if your hearing loss is service-connected or not? Here’s how you can tell:
- You did not have any hearing issues before joining the military, and yours only started after your service discharge.
- Your doctor determines that the damage to your hearing comes from an illness or injury during your military service. For example: Long-term exposure to jet propulsion fuel is known to cause auditory processing dysfunction. In addition, blast injuries often damage veterans’ central auditory systems and make it harder to understand others when they speak.
- You had hearing issues before joining the military that got measurably worse as a result of your service. Let’s say you had 10% hearing loss before joining the Navy, but that increased to 30% after your discharge. Exposure to loud noise (i.e., jet engines, gunfire/ordnance, blasts) is linked to increased hearing impairment in veterans.
Tests You Need to Get a VA Rating for Hearing Loss
To assign your VA disability rating, an audiologist may perform controlled speech discrimination and puretone audiometry tests in both ears. The VA uses both tests determine a single disability percentage rating for your hearing loss. Here’s a quick overview of what each test does and how the potential results determine your VA disability rating:
- Controlled Speech Discrimination Test – The audiologist uses this test to determine how well you understand spoken words. During this test, the audiologist plays a variety of one-syllable words and then asks you to repeat them back. You’ll get your results from this test in the form of a percentage. That percentage helps the VA assign your disability rating for both ears.
- Puretone Audiometry Test – This test measures the decibels (loudness) and frequencies (pitch) where you first hear certain sounds. Your audiologist will play sounds at four different frequencies (1000, 2000, 3000 and 4000 Hertz). The score you receive is in the 0-110 range based on how loud the sounds are before you hear them. If you have perfect hearing, you’ll get a 0 on this part of your test. The higher your score, the worse your hearing loss. After testing your hearing thresholds at all four frequencies, the audiologist divides them by four. That final number is your puretone threshold average score that helps determine your VA disability rating.
Important: Not every veteran needs a controlled speech discrimination test. If that test doesn’t help the VA rate your hearing impairment, then they won’t ask for it.
If you don’t need both exams, the VA uses your puretone audiometry test results to assign a disability rating. Unless you’re completely deaf in both ears, your VA disability rating will fall below 100%.
Your Hearing Loss May Also Qualify for Free or Low-Cost Hearing Aids
If the VA determines you have service-connected hearing problems, then they’ll approve your claim for disability benefits. Hearing aids can certainly help some veterans hear better than they do without them. Depending on what caused your own hearing issues, the VA may provide the following at no cost to you:
- Free hearing aids and any other required accessories
- Replacement batteries as needed
- Repairs and hearing aid replacements for the rest of your life, provided you maintain eligibility for VA healthcare services
However, you cannot get this free or low-cost benefit until after you file a VA disability claim for hearing loss.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
Most veterans receive low VA ratings for their hearing problems, especially tinnitus (which automatically receives a 10% rating). For this reason, many vets turn to an accredited VA attorney for help. In recent years, nearly 4 in every 5 vets with lawyers prevailed against the VA in court. Since veterans disability lawyers always work on contingency, you pay $0 for legal assistance unless your case wins. And if you do win, you’ll only pay a small, one-time fee.
Planning to appeal a denied claim or request a higher VA disability rating? VBA data shows they assign 1 in 8 vets the wrong disability rating on their first claim. You can sign up for a free phone call to discuss your claim issues with a nearby lawyer today. This phone call costs you nothing and doesn’t obligate you to do anything else. When the lawyer calls you, ask if the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) might apply to your case. If it does, that means the government must pay for any legal fees related to your appeals hearing. In other words, if your case wins, the government pays your lawyer and you owe $0 for legal assistance.
Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free online benefits evaluation now!
Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.