The Prevalence of Hearing Loss in Veterans

Active military personnel and veterans are at a disproportionate risk for hearing loss and tinnitus.

Those conditions are the two most common disability claims filed by American veterans. In 2020, more than 1.3 million veterans received disability benefits for hearing loss and another 2.3 million filed claims linked to tinnitus.

Connecting Military Service and Hearing Loss

According to the CDC, you’re 30% more likely to have severe hearing loss as a veteran.

If you served in the U.S. Armed Forces, you were likely exposed to loud noises and ototoxic chemicals, such as jet fuel. Depending on the nature of your service, you may have encountered sounds that exceeded 85 decibels, causing permanent hearing damage.

You might have hearing loss if you were exposed to sounds such as:

  • Ambulance siren: 85 dB
  • Helicopter: 105 dB
  • Jet engine: 140 dB
  • M-16: 130-150 dB
  • Pistol fire: 157 dB
  • Anti-tank missile: 166 dB
  • Anti-tank gun: 182 dB
  • Heavy artillery: 185 dB

Service-Related Conditions That Affect Hearing

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL): This type of hearing loss occurs when the delicate hair-like structures of your inner ear are damaged. It’s caused by short- or long-term exposure to loud sounds and is usually irreversible.

Tinnitus: This condition presents itself as a ringing, buzzing or humming that is only perceptible to the affected individual. It may result in difficulty concentrating and a loss of sleep.

Traumatic brain injuries: A blow to the head or neck can disrupt your brain function and damage your auditory nerve, creating hearing loss or tinnitus. Explosives such as grenades, bombs, mortars and land mines can cause traumatic brain injuries.

Central auditory processing disorder (CAPD): This condition is categorized by an inability to comprehend speech. You hear sounds, but your brain struggles to interpret them. Blasts and explosions are a common cause of CAPD.

Treatment Options

Leaving your hearing loss or tinnitus untreated increases your risk of isolation. About 58% of veterans who have tinnitus were also diagnosed with anxiety and depression. It’s important to consult an audiologist to determine your degree of hearing loss and prescribe the appropriate treatment.

You may consider the following options to address your condition:

Hearing aids: These devices amplify and clarify sounds, so your brain doesn’t have to work as hard to interpret your auditory environment. Hearing aids come in a variety of sizes, styles and capabilities. Modern hearing technology offers Bluetooth connectivity, directional mics and customized programming.

Cochlear implants: You may need cochlear implants if you have severe to profound hearing loss and haven’t benefited from wearing hearing aids. These electronic devices are surgically implanted behind your ear and send auditory signals directly to the nerve in your inner ear.

Assistive listening devices: Personal mics, TV streamers and captioned phones improve your ability to hear conversations and stay socially engaged, especially in noisy environments.

Tinnitus management: Treatment options vary depending on the source of your symptoms. Medication treats biological factors like high blood pressure that exacerbate the ringing. Auditory masking technology helps your brain learn to ignore the sound, and cognitive behavioral therapy teaches you to adjust your emotional response to symptoms.

Claiming VA Disability for Hearing Loss

You must establish that your condition is connected to your military service to receive Veterans Affairs benefits for hearing loss and tinnitus treatment.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs requires you to know your current diagnosis and prove the damage occurred during your military service. You’ll also need to receive pure-tone audiometry and speech discrimination tests from a state-certified audiologist.

Hearing loss is assigned a disability rating of zero to 10 percent based on your test results. You’ll get a separate tinnitus rating if you require disability benefits for that condition as well.

Contact your local VA to see if you qualify for hearing aid benefits under the Care in The Community program.

Hearing Associates strives to show our gratitude to all veterans by providing comprehensive hearing evaluations and audiological services to the brave men and women who served. Call 888-760-2032 or contact us online to schedule your appointment.