Most military personnel, at some point during their service, are exposed to a high level of noise. Because noise-related hearing loss can be caused by exposure to loud noises over an extended period of time or by a sudden, unexpected loud noise, many veterans suffer from hearing loss disability. If you’re a veteran whose hearing loss or tinnitus (ringing in the ears) began or was aggravated during your service in the military, you may qualify for disability benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Risk Factors for Veterans

Any noise over 85 decibels (dB) is considered damaging. If you’re exposed to that level of noise, you can experience sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) when the nerve endings or tiny hair cells within the ear are damaged or have died. Most often, SNHL can’t be reversed.

Military personnel experience noise exposure quite often. Here is some important information about the types of equipment and environments that put soldiers at risk:

  • Hearing Loss Sign With an Exclamation PointSome of the loudest environments for the military include working in flight line jobs or the infantry and around naval ship engine rooms, aircraft carriers, and artillery. Those in combat are often exposed to auditory trauma for long periods of time. 
  • A firearm or rifle generates approximately 150 dB of noise.
  • A jet engine will generate approximately 140 dB of noise.
  • Artillery generates approximately 185 dB of noise.

In 2013, over 400,000 veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq suffered hearing loss related to their military service, especially those caught in roadside bombs. The explosions cause extreme change in the air pressure, and this can fracture bones in the ear and rupture the eardrum.

Military personnel and veterans who apply for VA disability for their hearing loss must show a service connection in three ways:

  • Provide evidence that they are currently disabled.
  • Provide medical evidence that the hearing loss occurred or was aggravated during their military service.
  • Provide evidence that there is a link between the disability they have today and an event that took place during their military service.

If you were exposed to high levels of auditory trauma while you were in the military and have developed tinnitus or some type of hearing loss, contact us at 402-933-5405 to discuss your situation. We can help determine if you’re eligible for VA Disability benefits.


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