When veterans apply for service connection for hearing loss, the VA will send them to a state-licensed audiologist to get their hearing evaluated. This exam will include a puretone audiometry test and a controlled speech discrimination test. A pure tone audiometry test measures the least audible sound that a person can hear, whereas the speech discrimination test asseses the veteran’s ability to understand speech from background noise. If a veteran’s speech discrimination is poor, the speech may sound garbled.
During a speech discrimination test, veterans will wear headphones and be asked to listen to a list of common words spoken via a recording. As the veteran is listening to this recorded test, the examining audiologist will ask him or her to repeat the words that are being spoken. The audiologist will then use the number of words the veteran is able to successfully repeat to determine his or her percentage of speech discrimination. This test measures the veteran’s ability to understand speech at a comfortable listening level. The more difficulty a veteran has with speech discrimination, the lower his or her assigned speech discrimination percentage will be.
Under 38 CFR § 4.85, VA rating evaluators use percent of speech discrimination, in addition to the veteran’s puretone threshold average, to determine the proper schedular disability rating to assign a veteran based on the severity of his or her hearing impairment:
Table VI: Numeric Designation of Hearing Impairment Based on Puretone Threshold Average and Speech Discrimination
|Puretone Threshold Avg. →||0-41||42-49||50-57||58-65||66-73||74-81||82-89||90-97||98+|
|% of Discrimination ↓|
The roman numeral designation determined from the first table is then used to determine the veteran’s schedular disability rating for hearing loss:
Table VII: Percentage Evaluations For Hearing Impairment
Horizontal (Poorer Ear) vs. Vertical (Better Ear) Hearing Impairment Determination Chart
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