Hearing issues – including hearing loss and tinnitus – affect thousands of veterans but Auditory Processing Disorder gets much less publicity.
It is estimated that half of the general population over the age of 75 experiences hearing loss. Nearly a million veterans receive disability compensation for hearing loss, while nearly 1.5 million receive compensation for tinnitus.
In 2014, the government officially recognized a different type of hearing loss to the VA disability compensation list: Auditory processing disorder.
Auditory processing disorder in veterans – also known as central auditory processing disorder or CAPD – impacts thousands. It is a condition which makes it difficult to understand speech.
If you have CAPD and can link it to your active duty service, you can receive an auditory processing disorder VA rating and are entitled to disability compensation.
In this article about auditory processing disorder and veterans:
- Auditory Processing Disorder in Veterans – A Different Type of Hearing Loss
- 3 Keys to a Successful VA Rating for Auditory Processing Disorder
- Auditory Processing Disorder: Hearing Exams for VA Disability
- Central Auditory Processing Disorder: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments
- Auditory Processing Disorder Treatment Options
- Conditions Related to Auditory Processing Disorder
- Woods and Woods – Serving Veterans Since 1985
Auditory Processing Disorder in Veterans – A Different Type of Hearing Loss
According to the American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association (ASHA), auditory processing disorder is not hearing loss. It is the inability to process or comprehend sounds.
You can understand the meaning of words and can hear them. However, in some instances, your brain cannot process them. WebMD describes it as not being able to hear the words in the “usual” way.
Some examples are when someone asks you to raise your hand, you might hear, “please haze your plan” instead. Or, if you say, “look at the cows over there,” someone with auditory processing disorder might hear, “look at the clown on the chair.”
Many adults describe CAPD is hearing garbled words. One person with this condition said it is like trying to hear someone on a cellphone when the cell signal is cutting in and out.
As sound waves/signals travel through the central auditory nervous system, if one or more or the processing areas (those for temporal or binaural processing, or auditory discrimination) is somehow deficient, it can result in the inability to understand speech, particularly in a noisy environment.
Due to the impact hearing disorders can have on a veteran’s life, the VA now recognizes it as a service-related condition. Therefore, a veteran can receive a VA rating for auditory processing disorder and receive disability benefits.
3 Keys to a Successful VA Rating for Auditory Processing Disorder
To get a reliable estimate of disability benefits, you need to determine your CAPD VA rating. You can do that using our free online disability rating calculator or by talking to our VA disability team at Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm. Your legal team will advise you to take the following action to get an accurate rating and how to file a claim with the VA for hearing loss successfully.
1. Get a VA Disability C&P Exam for Hearing Loss
A Compensation & Pension exam (C&P exam) is vital for getting a proper diagnosis and determining your VA rating for auditory processing disorder.
A hearing exam for VA disability is scheduled with a medical professional. During this exam, you will want to inform the doctor about:
- How the auditory processing disorder is affecting you
- How long you have been dealing with symptoms
- When you first noticed hearing loss/comprehension issues
Here are some tips on your C&P exam from one of our VA disability lawyers.
2. Identifying the Link to Active Duty Service
Typically, the onset of auditory processing disorder in veterans is due to exposure to jet fuel or is the result of noise exposure, such as a blast. Auditory processing disorder in adults can occur with age or certain health episodes (like a stroke). Therefore, if you have never been diagnosed with CAPD (as it is most common in young children) and have developed it after your active duty service, you will need to offer proof to the VA.
Proof will include:
- A professional diagnosis
- When you first started noticing symptoms
- Statements from fellow veterans or superiors
- Evidence that you were engaged in active duty service at the time of incurrence
3. A Nexus Letter
If you have already submitted a claim for a VA rating for auditory processing disorder and the VA denies the claim, you can supply a nexus letter during the appeals process. A nexus letter is a letter written by a medical professional that shows a connection between your current diagnosis and the active duty incident that resulted in this type of hearing loss.
The Nexus Letter is like the missing link to a successful VA disability compensation claim. In this video, one of our veteran’s disability lawyers explains the importance of the Nexus Letter.
Auditory Processing Disorder: Hearing Exams for VA Disability
Once you receive a positive diagnosis from an auditory processing disorder test, you will be eligible for 10% to 100% disability compensation, depending on how severe your case is and how it impacts your life. If you receive a negative diagnosis, you will receive a 0% disability rating, which means you are not eligible for disability benefits. (but you may still qualify for SMC or Aid and Attendance benefits!)
According to the Code of Federal Regulations (38 C.F.R. §3.385), there are three ways in which the VA determines whether your hearing problems constitute a disability.
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Auditory Threshold of 40 Decibels or Greater
Auditory thresholds measure your ear’s ability to hear. To measure this, the VA will include a Puretone Audiometric Test in your VA disability C&P exam for hearing loss. The Puretone Audiometric Test only measures auditory thresholds, so if your hearing issues include a poor result from this test, you may be entitled to a higher VA disability rating. (Note: To get a good read on how bad your hearing issues really are, it is best that all hearing tests are performed without the use of hearing aids.)
If you have an auditory threshold of 40 decibels or more for one of the following frequencies, you have diagnostic proof of a hearing disability:
- 500 Hertz
- 1000 Hertz
- 2000 Hertz
- 3000 Hertz
- 4000 Hertz
In this video, one of our clients that was in the Navy didn’t realize the ringing in his ears was a VA disability until long after his service.
Multiple Auditory Threshold Issues
Another indicator that you have hearing loss and should receive disability compensation is if you have an auditory threshold of greater than 26 decibels in three or more of the frequencies (500, 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000 Hertz).
Speech Recognition Scores
The VA medical professional will administer the Maryland CNC test (CNC: consonant-vowel nucleus-consonant). The test consists of a list of words that have a certain structure that can measure your ability to distinguish the sounds of each word.
If you receive a speech recognition score of less than 94% (without the use of hearing aids), you can be eligible for VA disability.
The results from each hearing test (for each ear) will be tallied and the VA will base your percentage of coverage on a score that indicates the level with which your CAPD impacts your hearing, understanding, and life as a whole.
Central Auditory Processing Disorder: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments
- Auditory decoding deficit: Dysfunction of the left auditory cortex (the temporal lobe in the brain that process auditory information)
- Prosodic dysfunction: Dysfunction of the right auditory cortex
- Integration dysfunction: Dysfunction of the corpus callosum (a large bundle of nerve fibers in the center of the brain that connects the left and right hemispheres)
Each category has its own characteristics, as well as their own treatment and management strategies. The following information consists of generalized information that can give you insight into whether you might have CAPD, what has caused it, and how your doctor can treat this condition.
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Auditory Processing Disorder Symptoms
CAPD can impact how well you listen and communicate with others. You may have difficulty communicating over the phone, following instructions/directions, or comprehending information in a work environment or classroom setting. The following symptoms are common in those who are diagnosed with auditory processing disorder.
- Difficulty paying attention
- Appearing distracted or inattentive (sometimes confused with ADD)
- Regularly asking for information to be repeated
- Difficulty hearing conversations in nosy environments
- Difficulty locating the source of a noise/sound
- Difficulty or complete inability to detect changes in a speaker’s tone
If the patient was diagnosed with CAPD during childhood, they likely experienced difficulties learning to read, write, and spell.
Here one of our VA disability lawyers goes over the questions Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm, is often asked about veterans’ disability claims and appeals.
Causes of Central Auditory Processing Disorder
Many children are born with this condition. If it appears in adulthood, it is typically due to:
- An illness (lead poisoning, ear infections, or meningitis)
- Nervous system diseases (multiple sclerosis)
- Head injuries
- A stroke
In addition, veterans who were exposed to loud noises, such as:
- Fired weapons (grenades, bombs, pistols, guns, rifles, anti-tank weapons)
- Transport aircraft, helicopters, jets, fighter planes
- Navy vessel engine rooms
- Navy carrier decks
- Armored vehicles
Veterans can develop this disorder after one large blast that damages their hearing, or from longstanding exposure to unhealthy noise levels.
Those who have been exposed to jet fuel during their active duty service can develop auditory processing disorder. For years, if an air force veteran was diagnosed with hearing loss, the VA and doctors attributed it to being around noisy aircraft.
However, researchers found a link between jet propulsion fuel-8 (JP-8) and CAPD, noting that even minimal exposure to the toxic chemicals in the fuel can adversely affect the brain and how it recognizes speech.
In 2019, the Australian government recognized the link between jet fuel exposure and auditory processing disorder. Thankfully, the US government recognized this link a bit sooner, in 2014, which means that there are now VA benefits for exposure to jet fuel.
Auditory Processing Disorder Treatment Options
Unfortunately, there are no cures for auditory processing disorder. However, your doctor can prescribe various therapies that can help you manage your symptoms. Treatment options include:
- Environmental modifications
- Speech therapy
- Compensation skills
- Auditory training
Here one of our founding VA disability lawyers talks about the benefits of Permanent ratings from the VA.
Conditions Related to Auditory Processing Disorder
As with many service-related conditions, an injury can result in more than one similar health condition. Some of the conditions are connected, while others simply result in similar symptoms. The following are some conditions commonly related to CAPD.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Service men and women are at a higher risk of sustaining a traumatic brain injury, with nearly 400,000 service members being diagnosed with a TBI since 2000.
An injury to the brain can change the structure and function of certain parts of the brain. The result: Long-term neurological disorders, including CAPD.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
The loss of the ability to hear and understand people around you can have an isolating effect. Veterans suffering from auditory processing disorder can experience exacerbated symptoms of PTSD, including:
- Sleep disturbances
- Obsessive thoughts
Based on the 38 CFR for PTSD, you may be eligible for disability compensation if you have PTSD and “impairment of auditory acuity.”
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Auditory processing disorder and ADHD are closely linked due to similar symptoms, including the inability to concentrate. However, just because you have one of these conditions does not mean you will be diagnosed with the other. It is important to note, though, that if you have been diagnosed with ADHD, auditory processing disorder can exacerbate some of your symptoms. It is important to get an accurate diagnosis since both conditions require different types of treatment plans.
Veterans who can’t hold down a steady job that supports them financially (known as substantially gainful employment) because of their service-connected disabilities are eligible for TDIU if they have:
- At least one service-connected disability rated at 60% or more disabling OR
- Two or more service-connected disabilities with at least one rated at 40% or more disabling and a combined rating of 70% or more
Woods and Woods – Serving Veterans Since 1985
For decades, the team at Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm, has helped thousands of veterans get disability compensation. We provide a free disability rating calculator to help veterans estimate their potential rating. We also have a huge staff that can help you file a claim and address all of your questions and concerns.
No matter where you are in the process – from learning about your auditory processing disorder VA rating and filling a claim to appealing a denied claim – our team can help you get the compensation you deserve.
At Woods and Woods, the Veteran’s Firm, we’ve helped thousands of veterans with their VA disability applications and appeals. We’ve been adding staff and lawyers during the Covid pandemic to serve disabled veterans better in difficult times.
Call us today to discuss your VA disability appeal or your first application. The call is free and we won’t charge you a single fee until we win your case. We even pay for the postage for all of the documentation you send to our office. You can look for a VA disability attorney near you or call us and join the thousands of veterans living off of VA disability thanks to Woods and Woods.
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Yes. It sounds like your are pyramiding, but since tinnitus is ringing, hearing loss involves damage to your ears, and CAPD could be neurological, they are three separate conditions. Make sure you talk to one of our VA lawyers first, though, to keep the VA from throwing out your case for 3 things that seem so similar.
The doctor at your C&P exam will run tests that actually monitor what your ear can hear. Their battery of tests will best determine your diagnosis. If you feel that they have made a mistake, you can go to your family doctor for a second opinion. The VA will accept a nexus letter from them or from one of our experienced doctors too.