The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was created to ensure our cherished military men and women have appropriate resources to address their healthcare needs, particularly injuries and illness resulting from active duty. The VA dates all the way back to 1663 when the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony were at war with Pequot Native Americans.
Throughout history, 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
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.
Veterans who are eligible include:
- Individuals with compensable service-connected disabilities
- Former Prisoners of War (POWs)
- Purple Heart recipients
- Those receiving benefits under Title 38 United States Code 1151
- Individuals rated permanently housebound or in need of regular aid and assistance
- Veterans with hearing loss resulting from diseases or other medical conditions
- Individuals with significant functional or cognitive impairment that hinders daily 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
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 system 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 longevity 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
According to the VA, more than 59,000 military members experienced hearing loss from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Because of routine exposure to loud noise in active combat, hearing loss is the most prevalent injury that veterans experience, and it has been a growing concern for decades. In fact, the Veterans Health Initiative reported that the field of audiology was established during World War II to treat veterans who returned home with hearing loss.
Between 1945 and 1947, 15,000 veterans were seen for hearing loss, 45,000 by 1949 and 71,000 veterans were identified with hearing loss by 1957. The VA hearing aids program began in the late 1950s and became a leader in the development of treatment options, evaluation and technology.
Get the benefits you deserve! Apply for VA benefits online or by calling 1-877-222-8387.
Preventing hearing loss in today's military
Combat veterans, especially those who spend an extended amount of time in the force, find that having trouble hearing is common. Soldiers can protect themselves against future hearing loss by following these protective measures:
- Minimize exposure to noisy environments: While it may not be possible to choose their level of exposure to loud sounds, military personnel can try to avoid it outside of the force.
- Wear hearing protection: As much as possible, soldiers should wear protective barriers for their ears.
- Avoid medications that can harm hearing: Some medications, like ototoxic drugs, are known to cause hearing loss and possibly tinnitus. Military personnel should talk with their doctor about hearing concerns and learn about drug side effects.
- Protect the head to prevent trauma or injury: Protecting the head against trauma can reduce the chance of injuries that can contribute to hearing loss.
- Have regular hearing check-ups: After a baseline hearing test, military personnel should have their hearing checked each year to catch any changes early.
If you are a veteran and think you may have hearing loss, contact your local VA facility to set up a consultation with an audiologist who can determine your hearing needs and help you get your hearing back on track. If you are returning home from combat, you may face some complex health challenges – don’t let hearing loss be one of them!