Proposed law aims to boost veterans' access to hearing care
Veterans Hearing Benefits Act of 2022 would reduce red tape for hearing loss and tinnitus treatment
Former U.S. service members have disproportionately high rates of hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Yet, when they try to get audiology care through their Veterans Administration benefits, they often face unnecessary red tape, according to U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.).
Currently, to receive VA hearing care, such as hearing aids, veterans must have documented that they incurred hearing loss or tinnitus while on active duty.
"However, many veterans are not diagnosed until after they are discharged," Smith explained in a news release. "This places a significant burden on veterans to prove that their hearing loss or tinnitus is the result of their time in the military."
How the proposed law would help veterans with hearing problems
Smith introduced the Veterans Hearing Benefits Act of 2022 in early February. If passed, the law would:
Hearing problems are the most common service-connected disability among veterans. In 2020, 3.6 million veterans received disability compensations for hearing loss or tinnitus, according to the VA. The VA is the largest employer of audiologists and speech-language pathologists.
Why veterans have high rates of hearing loss and tinnitus
Because of the nature of their work, active-duty service members are disproportionately exposed to loud noises from sources like gunfire, aircraft, tanks, and bombs, which puts them at risk of noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus.
They are also more likely than the general public to suffer a traumatic brain injury resulting in hearing loss, or work in environments with known ototoxic pollutants like jet fuel, which is linked to hearing loss.
Hearing aids and other treatments vital to veteran health
When left untreated, hearing loss and tinnitus have an enormous impact on quality of life. Hearing loss is linked to higher rate of social isolation and dementia, and chronic, persistent tinnitus often results in anxiety and sleep problems. The good news? Hearing aids improve your health in many ways, even helping to delay the onset of cognitive decline.
I'm a veteran, how do I get help for hearing problems?
If you have hearing loss or tinnitus, the next step we recommend is reading our overview of VA hearing care. We wrote it to help veterans understand the process of applying for benefits and disability.