What Is Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss is a common condition among aging populations. One in three people between the ages of 65 and 75 report some level of hearing loss, with frequency of the condition increasing to one in two among those over 75. For veterans, the likelihood of developing hearing loss over time is even higher because many occupations in the military require that soldiers be in close proximity to loud sounds on a daily basis, causing repetitive damage to the inner ear.
There are three different types of hearing loss:
- Conductive (involves outer or middle ear)
- Sensorineural (involves inner ear)
- Mixed (combination of the two)
Most types of hearing loss are irreversible, but veterans with hearing loss should still consult their doctor to see if there are any steps they can take to improve their hearing. The most common symptoms veterans should watch out for to identify early signs of hearing loss are:
- Trouble hearing consonants
- Withdrawal from conversations
- Avoidance of some social settings
- Frequently asking others to speak more slowly, clearly and loudly
- Muffling of speech and other sounds
- Difficulty understanding words, especially against background noise or in a crowd
- Needing to turn up the volume of the television or radio
If a veteran exhibits any of the aforementioned symptoms, he or she should visit his or her doctor to assess the cause and severity of the hearing loss. Veterans who experience a sudden loss in hearing, particularly in one ear, should seek immediate medical attention.
Getting Service Connected For Hearing Loss
According to the VA’s Annual Benefits Report, hearing loss is the second most common service-connected disability among all VA disability compensation recipients. It is second only to tinnitus, another impairment of the auditory system. Given that hearing loss is a physical condition, the most important evidence to provide when seeking service connection for this impairment is medical records. Ideally, these medical records will show that the veteran was (1) diagnosed with hearing loss in service or (2) diagnosed within one year of discharge, with symptoms presenting in service. Additional helpful records could include assignment logs, showing that the veteran was regularly exposed to loud sounds, and any other service personnel records that could show the veteran was involved in an incident or activity that could cause hearing loss.
How The VA Rates Hearing Loss
Under 38 CFR § 4.85, the VA rates hearing loss depending on the severity of the condition. In order to assess severity, the VA sends the veteran to an audiologist in order to complete a series of tests to determine the veteran’s level of hearing impairment. The information provided below outlines the process used to determine the veteran’s schedular disability rating for hearing loss.
Diagnostic Code 6100: Hearing Loss
“Puretone threshold average,” as used in Tables VI and VIa, is the sum of the puretone thresholds at 1000, 2000, 3000 and 4000 Hertz, divided by four. This average is used in all cases (including those in § 4.86) to determine the Roman numeral designation for hearing impairment from Table VI or VIa.
- Table VI: “Numeric Designation of Hearing Impairment Based on Puretone Threshold Average and Speech Discrimination,” is used to determine a Roman numeral designation (I through XI) for hearing impairment based on a combination of the percent of speech discrimination (horizontal rows) and the puretone threshold average (vertical columns). The Roman numeral designation is located at the point where the percentage of speech discrimination and puretone threshold average intersect.
|Puretone Threshold Avg. →||0-41||42-49||50-57||58-65||66-73||74-81||82-89||90-97||98+|
|% of Discrimination ↓|
- Table VIa, “Numeric Designation of Hearing Impairment Based Only on Puretone Threshold Average,” is used to determine a Roman numeral designation (I through XI) for hearing impairment based only on the puretone threshold average. Table VIa will be used when the examiner certifies that use of the speech discrimination test is not appropriate because of language difficulties, inconsistent speech discrimination scores, etc., or when indicated under the provisions of § 4.86.
- Table VII, “Percentage Evaluations for Hearing Impairment,” is used to determine the percentage evaluation by combining the Roman numeral designations for hearing impairment of each ear. The horizontal rows represent the ear having the better hearing and the vertical columns the ear having the poorer hearing. The percentage evaluation is located at the point where the row and column intersect.
Getting Help With Your Hearing Loss Claim
If you or a loved one are a veteran seeking assistance with your VA disability claim for hearing loss, our experienced veterans law attorneys are ready to help. Contact our office today to get your free claim evaluation. We can help you get the compensation you deserve.