In 2010, over 35 million people in the United States suffered from hearing loss, and it was estimated that one out of every three cases was caused by excessive exposure to noise. Additionally, approximately 50 million Americans experience tinnitus—ringing or buzzing in the ears—and 30 million are exposed to dangerous noise levels on the job.

Hearing loss and tinnitus are especially prevalent in military personnel. They are the two most common disabilities in veterans, dB Meter and hearing damage has been a leading disability since World War II through Vietnam. The American Tinnitus Association (ATA) states that through 2012, over 970,000 veterans received disability compensation for tinnitus with the annual cost of these payments totaling over $1 billion.

Many jobs require people to use loud equipment or work in noisy environments. If the noise level in these environments reaches over 85 dB, you may suffer hearing problems related to noise exposure. Some noise exposure can cause debilitating hearing loss. If the effects of noise exposure are severe enough, you may be unable to work. If this happens, you could be eligible for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), or if you’re a veteran, you may be eligible for benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

What Type of Noise Can Cause Hearing Loss?

Sound levels are measured in decibels (dB). If you are exposed to long-term or quick, short sounds above 85 dB, you can be at risk for hearing loss. Here is some important information about noise level:

  • A department of defense (DOD) weapon—the M-16—can reach 156 dB. If you’re without hearing protection, it only takes one shot to damage your hearing.
  • Common equipment used at home such as lawn and power tools can reach a sound level of 104 dB.
  • Music concerts with loud bands can reach a sound level of 139 dB.
  • Exposure to the sound of a handgun at close range or fireworks—160 dB or higher—can cause instant damage to your ears.
  • If you can’t hear someone who stands three feet away—at a rock concert, nightclub, or festival—the noise level in the environment could be high enough to hurt your hearing.
  • To safeguard workers who are exposed to eight hours of continuous noise at 85 dB or higher, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires they wear hearing protection.

Hearing loss is also associated with many illnesses and diseases, including dementia, depression, and anxiety. And if problems related to hearing loss go untreated, people can face decreased earning potential.

If you’re a veteran, and your time in the military exposed you to high noise level, or you work in with machinery or equipment that creates excessive noise, you may face serious hearing problems and disabling hearing loss. If your hearing loss is interfering with your life and work, contact us at 402-933-5405 to discuss your situation. We can help determine if you’re eligible for VA or SSA disability benefits.


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska
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