That ringing in your ears might have started with a hot rod in high school, but if you are a veteran who has tinnitus after military service, you should look into VA disability today. Tinnitus and hearing loss are the top veterans’ disabilities and the VA is ready to recompense you for your loss.
In this article about tinnitus and hearing loss among veterans:
- Tinnitus and Hearing Loss are the Most Common VA Disabilities
- What is the Difference Between Tinnitus and Hearing Loss?
- What Causes Tinnitus in Veterans?
- Is it Worth Getting a 0% Rating for Tinnitus?
- How Do I Prove I Have Tinnitus?
- How Much Will I Get for Tinnitus Disability?
- Types of Hearing Tests
- They Didn’t Give me a Hearing Test When I was Discharged
- Do I have To Get a VA Rating for Tinnitus and Hearing Loss Together?
- How Much Disability Does the VA Pay for Hearing Loss?
- Get Help From a Veteran’s Disability Lawyer on your First Try
Tinnitus and Hearing Loss are the Most Common VA Disabilities
In 2018, the most recent year for which we have data, there were about 306,000 vets that began receiving disability benefits. Of those 306,000, there were 233,000 claims that contained tinnitus and/or hearing loss. Some veterans claimed both at the same time, because as you may already know, you can suffer from both of them at once.
Everything from loud guns to a hot PA system in an auditorium can give you tinnitus. Some veterans have also been found to get it from antibiotics or impact from a wreck or explosion. It doesn’t always have to be from a loud noise.
Even with hearing protection, hearing loss or tinnitus can happen. If the hearing protection is defective, that’s an additional legal case altogether. We also help veterans with the defective 3M earplug case, but that is separate from getting your VA disability approved.
In this video, one of our certified VA disability lawyers explains how the VA rating for tinnitus is important to your VA disability application:
What is the Difference Between Tinnitus and Hearing Loss?
Tinnitus is hearing sounds that aren’t really there while hearing loss is the inability to hear sounds that are really there. Because they are different, one person can suffer from both tinnitus and hearing loss in both ears at the same time. Tinnitus can get worse as a person experiences more quiet settings while hearing loss can get worse as someone is subjected to more loud noises.
Hearing loss can usually be corrected or assisted with hearing aids. Tinnitus can sometimes be helped by sleeping with a fan or noise maker that drowns out the ringing, buzzing, or clicking sound caused by the tinnitus. Ear wax and the growth of your bones or loss of hair in your ears can also affect tinnitus, so if any of those root causes can be fixed, you might be able to fix the ringing. Other medical conditions like Meniere’s Disease can aggravate tinnitus.
What Causes Tinnitus in Veterans?
Most of the time tinnitus or hearing loss are credited to the range or flight deck. Loud, repetitive noises can even do their work on ears that have PPE like earplugs or over-the-ear protection. If you were near an IED that went off, you might have hearing loss from the sound and tinnitus from the impact.
In some crash or impact instances, veterans only have tinnitus in one ear. Depending on the severity, it can be really hard to tell that only one ear is ringing when you hear it all of the time in your head. These kinds of causes make it clear that some level of Tinnitus almost always travels along with PTSD. We’ll look over your entire medical profile and make sure you get VA ratings for as many conditions as you can.
Other illnesses can cause tinnitus, like a sinus infection or Acoustic neuroma which is a type of cancer. Malaria medicine and some antidepressants can also cause tinnitus. If you have a VA rating for PTSD and the medicine you take for it also causes ringing in your ears, you can file for a secondary-connected condition of tinnitus.
Is it Worth Getting a 0% Rating for Tinnitus?
Yes, it is. Since tinnitus is something that very rarely gets better with age, having historical approval from the VA is helpful. If you file for more VA benefits later on down the line, you might be able to get an increase on your 0% rating foe tinnitus up to 10%. That 10% can pay off over time.
While they don’t count 0% ratings as they compute your combined rating, hearing loss and tinnitus disability benefits travel together. That 0% rating for tinnitus today might help you with your hearing loss claim in a few years. Most people that have tinnitus have some level of hearing loss. You just have to convince the VA that they are service-connected.
How Do I Prove I Have Tinnitus?
You’ll have a hearing test whether you are claiming tinnitus or hearing loss or both. There are standard hearing tests that can be administered by your doctor, but for the VA, you’ll eventually need a
Your doctor is going to ask what loud noises you were subjected to in the service. List them all! They don’t just have to be from military stuff.
- Loudspeakers at boot camp (not loud drill sergeant, but sound equipment)
- A specific explosion that is documented (because of injuries or change of mission)
- Work on the shooting range? How long?
- How long did you spend around specific machinery or ship engines?
- Did you run sound for the U.S. Navy Band?
- Were you around F-35 jets? They are 4 times louder than an F16. Just proving you were around them could make your case.
Like everything else on your C&P exam, the more you have written out ahead of time, the better prepared you’ll be. List every single thing you can remember, even if you think it was no big deal. The US needed you to be a tough guy then, but your family needs you to be honest now. If it was a loud noise, write it down.
Here are some tips on your C&P Exam from one of our experienced Veterans Disability Lawyers.
How Much Will I Get for Tinnitus Disability?
The typical compensation for tinnitus is $152.64. That’s a 10% disability rating with no additional dependents, SMC, Aid and Attendance, or any other add-ons.
As part of your disability claim, we’ll fill out a form 21-4138 STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF CLAIM to explain what made the most noise during your enlistment. Remember, any kind of verifiable evidence (your company was regularly carrying M67s and you have a buddy statement or a picture to prove it) will help your claim. Even better, give our number to your buddy and we’ll help both of you get your VA disability application sent in.
Types of Hearing Tests
There are standardized, measurable tests for hearing loss and you will have to go through at least one of them. They test different levels of hearing impairment so that the VA can rate your ability to hear accurately. You may have the hearing test multiple times, as your family doctor is qualified to test your hearing at one level, but he or she can’t give you your rating.
For your VA rating, all of your testing must be done by a state-licensed audiologist and requires the controlled speech discrimination test (Maryland CNC) and a pure-tone audiometry test.
Here is a short list of typical hearing tests
- Puretone Test – Tones at different frequencies and volume intensities.
- SRT (Speech Reception Testing) – Measures how much you can understand the sounds of speech.
- WRT (Word Recognition Testing) – You repeat the words you hear, but they are played at a level according to the Pure Tone Test, so the test administrator knows they are able to be heard.
- OAE (otoacoustic emissions) Testing – Tests the sounds that bounce off of your hearing organs.
- ART (Auditory Reflex Testing) – Works like a reflex when they hit your knee, except it’s done in your ear. You can’t fake this one.
- Auditory Brain Stem Response – Actually scans your brainwaves to see if you are responding to sounds or not.
All of these tests follow a specific order depending on your specific needs. If you miss more than 3 words in the WRT, for instance, you’ll probably see a professional audiologist to examine the inside of your ears. At that point, you may even have procedures to clean out any excess wax, skin, or other diseases of your ears
Here is a video about how to fake a hearing test: #SpoilerAlert – You can’t.
They Didn’t Give me a Hearing Test When I was Discharged
That is more common than you would expect! Whether it was a time when they just assumed everyone had hearing loss and you just had to “deal with it” or if you were just overlooked, we can still work with your claim. Any kind of physical you may have taken for work can be a big help.
You may also be able to track down an old girlfriend on Facebook that knew you right when you got out of the service. A lay statement giving a detailed description of how bad your hearing was, how a loud concert didn’t affect you, or even how much you said “What?” can be written up with a clear date and submitted as evidence.
We can also put together evidence based on your record of activities in the service. If you did training on the firing range for an extended time, have a record of working around heavy construction equipment in the Army or big guns on ships in the Navy, we will use all of that as evidence. We want to prove that you experienced louder than normal sounds for an extended period of time when filing a claim for hearing loss.
Do I have To Get a VA Rating for Tinnitus and Hearing Loss Together?
You don’t have to apply for a rating for both, but it’s worth checking it out. There are three main reasons you should try for it:
- It takes a long time to apply and hear back about your VA claim.
- Most people that have hearing loss also have tinnitus.
- You’ll go through the same tests and submit the same evidence whether you apply for benefits for both or not.
That’s right, you’re going to go through all of the hoops to get both anyway, so we always try to help our clients apply for both.
How Much Disability Does the VA Pay for Hearing Loss?
We talk about specific measures of hearing loss elsewhere on our blog, but for tinnitus, you basically have two levels of ratings: 0% (no money) or 10% ($152.64 per month plus back pay from your effective date).
Hearing loss VA ratings cover a greater range, of course, because they are covering a greater range of disability. Unlike many VA ratings that step from 10% to 30% and up to 60%, the hearing loss VA ratings table measures every 10% points from 0 to 100%. The audiologist uses a system of measurement from their tests to give you a Roman numeral score. That score is then assessed for each ear and put together to come up with your percentage.
If figuring out your combined rating was VA Math, then the formula for finding your hearing loss VA rating is like VA Algebra.
One of our VA disability lawyers explains how VA math works and our veterans disability combined ratings calculator.
Get Help From a Veteran’s Disability Lawyer on your First Try
Most of the veterans that call us for help find out that they are eligible for more disability ratings than they expected. If you have ringing in your ears and you are a veteran, you should already be getting disability. It’s not always that easy, of course, but we think it should be that easy for you.
We handle all of the paperwork and keep you updated on the progress of your claim. We’ll follow up if the VA needs anything else and we’ll notify you as soon as we hear anything from them. We pay for all of our on-staff doctors and case workers and even the postage until we win your claim.
Lawyers are permitted to charge 30% of your backpay to cover their fees. Our fee is only 20% to cover the costs of our lawyers, case managers, intake experts, doctors, psychiatrists, and other staff. Contact us today for free and we’ll get started talking about your case. You have nothing to lose except the time you wait to call us.
Yes, thank goodness it is! If you’ve suffered from ringing in your ears and you think your military service caused it, you’ve got a case with Veterans Affairs.
Yes, you should apply for VA disability even if you can hear fine. Tinnitus is often accompanied by hearing loss. As you go through the testing for the VA, you may find that you actually have mild hearing loss. This will help your disability check, and you might get hearing aids from the VA!