Are you a U.S. veteran struggling with hearing loss or tinnitus? You're not alone. Annually, about three million veterans receive disability compensation for hearing loss and ringing in the ears.
Service members are routinely exposed to loud noise, blast injuries, and other on-the-job activities. As a result, hearing impairment and tinnitus are the most common service-related injuries that disable veterans, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Two types of assistance for veterans who qualify
VA hearing care benefits
To receive hearing aids or similar devices (such as a cochlear implant), you first must qualify for VA healthcare. Once enrolled, veterans can seek out benefits for hearing tests, examinations and hearing aids. To begin this process, veterans can:
If you get benefits
Once approved, all Veterans "shall receive a hearing evaluation by a state-licensed audiologist to determine the need for hearing aids," according to the VA's 2014 directive for eye and ear care.
Who is most likely to get approved?
Not every veteran will necessarily receive hearing aids. As the directive explains (page 1-2), the following veterans are most likely to receive hearing aid care are:
Page 3 of the directive further explains what levels of hearing loss meets the criteria for an audiologist to prescribe hearing aids in this group.
In some cases, a veteran will not qualify for any hearing care benefits, or will have to pay co-pays. For additional information, contact a representative at the nearest VA medical center to begin hearing loss treatment discussions.
VA service-connected disability and compensation for hearing loss
If you think you experienced hearing loss or another auditory problem as a result of service in the U.S. military, you may be eligible for disability compensation. This will entitle you to a certain amount of compensation per month.
Go to VA disability compensation to start the claims process.
Important to note: If your claim is approved, you automatically also become eligible for hearing care from the VA.
Can you see a local provider?
VA Community Care may be available to you if you live too far from a VA hearing clinic, or if there is a long waiting time to get an appointment at the closest VA facility.
Veterans and auditory processing disorder
If you've been told you have normal hearing—but still struggle to understand speech—you may have what's known as auditory processing disorder.
Veterans and tinnitus
Tinnitus is common in veterans. If you have ringing in the ears, you may qualify for hearing care, disability payments, and the VA's progressive tinnitus management program. Those interested should contact their local VA office for more information. Tinnitus has no known cure. However, several techniques can be used to help sufferers acclimate to the sound and manage their reactions to flare-ups.
Preventing hearing loss in today's military
Veterans over 65 are at nearly twice the risk of developing severe hearing loss compared to their peers. This is especially the case for those who spent an extended amount of time deployed in combat zones.
Current service members can protect themselves against future hearing loss by following these protective measures: