This month, we honor the veterans who have risked their lives to serve our country. The most prevalent health-related problem reported by returning veterans is hearing loss. According to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Veterans, an estimate of more than 78,000 veterans will return home from Iraq and Afghanistan with some degree of hearing loss. It is the most common condition found in soldiers post-conflict, along with traumatic brain injury.
Veterans can receive service-connected disability compensation for their hearing loss. One must apply for disability benefits on the basis of a direct service connection. To receive benefits, the following is required:
- The veteran must be given a current diagnosis of a hearing loss condition
- There must be evidence of an event during service that caused the condition
- A medical opinion must link the hearing loss with a service-connected event
Common hearing-related conditions for veterans include tinnitus (ringing of the ears) or hearing loss. Some veterans may also experience cancer, peripheral vestibular disorders (dizziness caused by inner ear problems), loss of one or both ears, or a perforated eardrum. Veterans are tested and given a disability rating based on their condition. The rating corresponds with level of treatment for the condition.
However, if the veteran does not suffer from hearing loss immediately following active duty and the condition appears later in life, he or she can still receive benefits. If the veteran can prove that there was significant exposure to loud noise during service, a direct connection can still be established.