Hearing loss affects millions of Veterans. Serving the military requires spending time around loud machines and equipment, ranging from guns to explosives to jet engines and other vehicles. Because hearing loss is so common among military members, the VA recognizes both hearing loss and tinnitus as disabilities and awards affected Veterans with compensation benefits.
That said, it can be tough to know how much you should expect regarding hearing loss benefits due to jet engine noise. Let’s take a closer look at disability ratings for hearing loss.
Hearing loss involves the loss of auditory function in one or both ears, which limits one’s ability to hear various sounds. In minor cases, hearing loss might make hearing someone talking to you across a room difficult. In more severe cases, hearing loss can make it difficult to hear anything at anytime, even extending to deafness.
Unfortunately, hearing problems can occur at any age due to various causes and circumstances. Military Veterans, however, are about 30% more likely to experience severe hearing impairments than civilians.
Military members worked around heavy equipment and machinery, such as jet engines. Jet engines typically roar at a sound range of between 120 and 140 dB. In comparison, normal conversation is usually in a range of between 60 and 70 dB. If you work in or around aircraft, your ears are constantly exposed to sounds equivalent to loud music at a concert.
Since military members are exposed to loud noises more frequently than the general public, they are more likely to develop some hearing loss by the time they are discharged. Fortunately, the VA recognizes hearing loss and tinnitus as auditory disabilities and compensates affected veterans.
Hearing loss is different for every individual. It can affect one or both ears, and it can be characterized by a variety of symptoms, including:
Most ear damage occurs when the eardrum and middle ear gradually accumulate injuries from exposure to loud noises. The eardrum and the middle ear are very sensitive, and you cannot reverse the accumulated damage without surgery and intense medication.
Meanwhile, some hearing loss is due to sensorineural hearing loss, characterized by nerve damage to the inner ear and the auditory nerve. If either of these areas is affected, recovery can be much more difficult, and some damage may be permanent.
Tinnitus is similar to hearing loss, but it’s not the same. Technically, if you have tinnitus, you haven’t lost your hearing. Instead, you experience a buzzing or ringing sound that can occur continuously or repeatedly.
Tinnitus can be annoying. In some cases, it can even make it difficult to hear other sounds. Many military Veterans develop tinnitus due to exposure to jet engine noise. The VA rates tinnitus at a flat percentage of 10%. This is assigned whether the Veteran in question has ringing in one or both ears.
On the plus side, if you have a disability rating for tinnitus, you can still get a separate disability rating for hearing loss. Then, the VA will add both ratings to your total disability rating. The VA uses a special formula to determine total ratings, so ask your attorney for your final rating.
The military recognizes hearing loss and tinnitus as common disabilities and medical conditions caused or aggravated by military service, especially due to exposure to jet noise, gunfire, and other triggers. If you develop hearing loss after or during your time in the military, you can receive monthly disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
That’s okay! You can still receive disability compensation. If your hearing loss only developed many years after leaving the service, don’t automatically assume you will be denied benefits. While the VA does often attribute hearing loss to age when denying a claim, there may be ways to show that frequent exposure to loud noise caused or aggravated your hearing loss. If you can effectively provide proof that your hearing loss is due to your military service and not aging, you can still recover compensation.
Knowledgeable Veterans law attorneys can help you prove this by looking at your service records and more.
The VA rates all hearing loss the same, and at the following percentages:
The VA relies on objective hearing test results when determining these ratings — it is not a subjective assignment of “mild,” “moderate,” or “severe.” The VA rates disability compensation for hearing loss due to jet engine noise and other factors by testing your total hearing ability in both ears. For example, if you are completely deaf in one ear, but can hear perfectly fine in the other, you will not receive a 100% disability rating. The most you may receive is a 10% rating.
Since disability ratings can vary so dramatically, contacting knowledgeable Veterans law attorneys at the earliest opportunity is a good idea.
To recover disability benefits for hearing loss, you must file a disability benefits application with the VA. You should first speak to Veterans law representative, who can provide a wide range of assistance for your case.
Knowledgeable representative, for example, can explain your legal options and help you connect with a licensed physician who can diagnose you with hearing loss or tinnitus. That’s vital because you may want to provide a nexus letter from a licensed physician to support your disability compensation claim, although this is not required.
That’s doubly true if your hearing loss developed many years after leaving the military. You can still recover disability compensation, but you must prove that you are regularly exposed to loud noises, like jet engines, during your service years to get that compensation.
Furthermore, knowledgeable Veterans law attorneys can gather evidence on your behalf or help you find the right evidence to substantiate your case. Effective evidence can include lay statements written by friends and family members that substantiate your claims about your hearing loss’s severity or ancillary symptoms.
Then, your Veterans law attorneys can help you assemble all your paperwork and submit it promptly to the VA. Perfectly submitting your paperwork is vital so it doesn’t get delayed or returned, which can cause you to go for longer without disability compensation.
If your initial benefits application is denied, don’t lose heart. Your Veterans law attorneys can help you through the appeals process from start to finish. It’s possible to overturn an initial denial decision or appeal with the VA to receive a higher VA disability rating if the initial rating is not high enough to cover your medical costs or to reflect the difficulties you face because of your hearing loss.
Depending on the severity of your hearing loss due to jet engine noise, you could receive a disability rating from 10% to 100%. Knowledgeable Veterans law attorneys can help you maximize your disability compensation by helping you gather the right evidence and file your claim properly.
Berry Law is the ideal law firm to contact. Our educated, experienced lawyers have helped Veterans like you recover the benefits they deserve for their military service. Contact us today to learn more.
Our monthly newsletter features about important and up-to-date veterans' law news, keeping you informed about the changes that matter.