Noise-related hearing loss affects many people in the military. Over 250,000 service members reported some type of hearing loss Yellow Hearing Loss Signafter being redeployed from the Gulf War, and over 350,000 service personnel have reported symptoms of tinnitus. Tinnitus is a ringing or humming sound or noise that comes from within the ear instead of a sound in the outside environment.

Those who experience tinnitus or hearing loss may find that it affects one or both ears, and symptoms of tinnitus may be inconsistent and occur infrequently. Those who suffer from severe tinnitus sometimes find it as disabling as the loss of hearing.

Exposure to severe noise levels can cause significant damage to your ears. If you’re a veteran experiencing symptoms you believe are related to noise exposure during your service, you may be eligible for disability benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

What Studies Say About Veterans and Hearing Loss

In 2005, Congress ordered The National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine to assess noise-related hearing loss and tinnitus in military personnel since World War II. Additionally, there have been other studies done to understand the impact of noise on veterans. Here are some of the findings from those studies:

  • Programs that would protect military personnel from hearing loss have not been acceptable or satisfactory from World War II to the current day.
  • One-fourth of the military personnel serving in Afghanistan and Iraq have hearing damage.
  • There is a connection between the loss of hearing caused by exposure to noise and the existence of tinnitus. 

Disability for Veterans Suffering From Service-Related Hearing Loss

If you’re a veteran applying for VA disability because you have noise-related hearing loss or tinnitus due to your military service, there are certain things you’ll want to do to help your case. Here are a few tips for applying for disability:

  • Provide detailed statements that explain the noise exposure you experienced during your military service.
  • Cite the sources of the noise such as the machinery you used or the environment you worked in.
  • Cite the duration of the exposure, and explain the type of hearing protection available for use (including no protection).
  • Cite when you first noticed the symptoms of hearing loss and if they’ve continued.
  • Identify additional post-military exposure to noise.
  • Provide a medical opinion from a licensed audiologist or ear, nose, and throat surgeon who is able to connect the service-related exposure to your hearing loss disability.

The VA determines the degree of your hearing loss using specific criteria. After you’re tested by a licensed audiologist, the results are calculated by the VA to arrive at a percentage of disability that can be attributed to your hearing loss or tinnitus.  

The symptoms of noise exposure are serious and can severely impact your ability to live life and do your job. If you believe you need VA Disability benefits, or if you have been denied disability benefits, contact us at 402-933-5405, and let us review your case.


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