Those who serve our nation put their lives on the line for the country and many veterans face a number of health issues as a result. Considering the frequent and sustained exposure to dangerous sound levels veterans experienced during service, it is easy to see why hearing loss is the 2nd most prevalent disability veterans report.
Hearing Loss Prevalence with Military Service
The National Institute of Health sponsored a study on hearing featured in the journal Military Medical Research of noises endured by those in the military. Their research shows that everyone in the service is exposed to harmful noises somewhere along the way. It also explains how hearing loss can be prevented through avoidance and ear protection. According to their research, 115,638 veterans experience tinnitus and 69,326 experience hearing loss. It’s important to note that the military now makes a better effort to issue hearing protection that older generations did not receive.
Armed Services Members and Hearing Loss
- Army and Marines – artillery fire, rifles, shotguns, and pistols all produce sounds in the 150-160 decibel range, which is loud enough for an eardrum to rupture. Grenades are slightly higher, and the continuous sound of an armored vehicle is 105dB. For those who regularly shoot rifles from one side of their body, one ear tends to have worse hearing loss than the other.
- Navy – patrol vessels and arrival ship tanks produce sounds around 100 dB, and the carrier decks are even louder. Military Medical Research’s poll of Navy officers found the engine rooms to be loudest.
- Air Force – helicopters, jets, and fighter planes range between 88 and 106 dB, and personnel are subjected to the sounds for extended periods of time.
Veterans Affairs’ Coverage of Hearing Aids
The Veterans Affairs (VA) employs more audiologists and speech-language pathologists than any other company in the country. For those with military hearing loss, there are some options.
If you are already signed up through a VA Medical Center, you can sign up for a consultation with the Audiology and Speech Pathology Clinic. The audiologists there can determine whether or not you have hearing loss and what the next steps entail.
Getting Hearing Aids for Free as a Veteran
If you are VA-eligible, hearing aids, repairs, and batteries are free of charge. Still, It is very difficult to get eligibility through the VA.
Determining if Your Eligible for VA Benefits as a Service Member
The first step to getting your hearing aids paid for by the VA is determining whether you qualify for benefits. Eligibility is given to those with a Purple Heart, former Prisoners of War, those under Title 38 United States Code 1151, and combat veterans.
The VA website provides order forms for batteries and other hearing aid accessories, but you will need an audiologist’s help with hearing aids. The VA can also help with tune-ups, training, and programming for hearing aids to help veterans regain hearing.
Getting Approved for Hearing Aids by the Veteran Affairs (VA)
Once approved and eligible, you will need to have a hearing evaluation done by a trained audiologist. Even though you’ve qualified for the evaluation, you may not qualify for hearing aids. This is because only some veterans with hearing loss are eligible for hearing aids.
To fully qualify, you will need to have a certain level of hearing loss. In some cases, your hearing loss may be mild and below the threshold for qualifying. Unfortunately, if this happens to you, the VA will not cover your hearing aids and you will have to foot the bill.
What to Do if You’re Denied Hearing Aid Coverage as a Veteran
For veterans struggling to get treatment for hearing loss or tinnitus through the VA, Audicus can be a more affordable option than through an audiologist. We recommend taking our Online Hearing Test to learn about what your hearing loss looks like. We are also proud to have a veteran on our service team who can offer guidance on available options, with or us or wherever works best for you. Call email to learn more.