The United States Department of Veterans Affairs was created to ensure that those who were in active duty have accurate resources to take care of any health issues caused by their active duty. This system dates all the way back to 1663 when the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony were at war with Pequot Native Americans. Throughout history, the nature of the department became much more sophisticated, and by World War I in 1917, it included insurance services, disability compensation and rehabilitation services.
Hearing healthcare eligibility through the VA
Assistance provided by the VA for hearing loss treatment depends on meeting general eligibility requirements. Once met, veterans can receive benefits for hearing tests, examinations and hearing aids. To begin this process, veterans should apply for enrollment using an online form, by calling 1-877-222-8387 or visiting a VA healthcare facility or regional office.
Basic veteran requirements for eligibility include:
- Individuals with compensable service-connected disabilities
- Individuals who are former Prisoners of War (POWs)
- Recipients of the Purple Heart
- Those receiving benefits under Title 38 United States Code 1151
- Individuals with increased pension on being rated permanently housebound or in need of regular aid and attendance
- Veterans with hearing impairment resulting from diseases or other medical conditions who are receiving services through the VHA
- Individuals with significant functional or cognitive impairment which hinders daily activities of living
- Veterans with hearing impairment severe enough to interfere with their ability to participate in their own medical treatment
- Veterans with service-connected hearing disability which contributes to decline in ability to communicate
For additional information regarding hearing aid coverage through the VA, contact a representative at the nearest VA medical center to begin hearing loss treatment discussions.
Benefits provided by the VA
In the last few years, the VA has worked to become a modern organization which provides care, research and education for those who come back from war. The biggest changes made to the department include these initiatives:
- Automating GI Bill benefits
- Creating Virtual Lifetime Electronic Records
- Developing the capabilities and systems to drive performance and outcomes
- Eliminating homelessness for veterans
- Enabling benefits and services that are up to the 21st century standards
- Improving the mental health of returning veterans
- Building a veterans Relationship Management to enable convenient, seamless interactions
- Enhancing veteran access to healthcare and improving the overall experience
- Establishing strong management infrastructure and operation
- Performing research to enhance long-term life and overall wellbeing of veterans
- Transforming human capital management
- Improving the quality of healthcare and cutting cost
- Transforming healthcare delivery through health informatics
Prevalence of hearing loss in veterans
In the 2001 fiscal year, VA audiologists treated more than 316,000 patients and issued a total of 241,458 hearing aids to those who needed them.
Risk factors for veterans
Our hearing gets worse as we get older – it's just a fact. But veterans may have it a little worse than others because they are commonly exposed to loud sounds. Risk factors for hearing loss increase based on a number of things, including:
- Not wearing protective gear for the head and ears
- Certain medications
- Repeated exposure to loud noises such as gun fire and explosions
- Ear trauma or injury
- Trauma to the head
- Family history of hearing loss and difficulties
Preventing hearing loss in today's military
The department works with a number of people who suffer from hearing loss from being in active duty. Veterans who were in areas of combat, especially those who spent an extended amount of time in the force, will find that having trouble hearing is very common. According to the VA website, nearly 10 percent of the disabilities for veterans are hearing difficulties.
Younger individuals who are going into combat now can protect themselves against future ailments by following these protective measures:
Minimize exposure to noisy environments: While it may not be possible for army personnel to determine their level of exposure to loud sounds, they can make sure to avoid it outside of the force.
Wearing hearing protection when around noise hazards: As much as possible, army members should make sure to provide a protective barrier for their ears.
Avoid medications that have effects on ear health: Some medications are known to cause hearing issues such as tinnitus. Before taking any prescription drugs, make sure to check with a doctor that these side effects are not common.
Wearing protective gear on the head to prevent trauma or injury: Covering up the ears and protecting the head against trauma can reduce the chances that debris would cause injury.
Having regular hearing check-ups: The ears are a very important and sensitive body organ, so they should be checked for damage on a regular basis, especially for those individuals who are in a military force.
If you are a veteran and think you may have hearing loss, start with a hearing test from a local hearing care professional or contact a VA facility near you. For further support, consider a complimentary membership to the Hearing Loss Association of America available for veterans. This national organization has local chapters across the United States who provide assistance and support to those with hearing loss and their families.
- VA Provided Hearing and Vision Benefits, Military Benefits, http://www.military.com/benefits/veterans-health-care/va-provided-hearing-and-vision-benefits.html
- War Related Illness and Injury Study Center, US Department of Veterans Affairs, www.warrelatedillness.va.gov/education/healthconditions/hearing-difficulties.asp
- Find locations, US Department of Veterans Affairs, http://www.va.gov/directory/guide/home.asp?isflash=1
- Veterans, Hearing Loss Association of America, http://www.hearingloss.org/content/veterans