What’s the most common armed forces-related injury service members experience?
Surprisingly, hearing loss is more widespread than post-traumatic stress disorder or physical battlefield injuries.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates that nearly 3 million veterans receive disability benefits due to hearing-related injuries. It’s no wonder, really. Our troops are exposed to loud noises in almost every combat-related role and each brand of the military. Loud noises produced by small arms, artillery, tanks, air crafts, and other heavy military equipment can all damage a soldier’s ears. Even if they take proper precautions, their hearing can worsen progressively as they age.
It’s no surprise that many veterans turn to the VA for assistance, particularly for obtaining hearing aids. But what kind of help does the VA provide for veterans who need hearing aids?
Diagnosing My Hearing Problem
If you suspect you’re suffering from military-related hearing loss, it’s best to consult with a hearing specialist to determine the extent of the damage and pinpoint a possible solution. A hearing specialist can test your ears to measure the extent of the damage and also make a diagnosis based on your symptoms. For example, if you hear a constant ringing in your ears and have trouble sleeping at night because of it, there’s a good chance the hearing specialist will diagnose you with tinnitus. Once you receive a diagnosis, it’s time to contact the VA about benefits to pay for your hearing aid.
VA Eligibility Need-to-Knows
The VA provides different levels of care depending on your eligibility status. VA disability benefits are available to those who suffered hearing loss while serving on active duty. Other benefits are only available to those who served during times of war.
If you need help determining your eligibility status to receive a hearing aid, you should begin the process by either applying online. You can also call 1-877-222-VETS or visit your local VA healthcare facility or regional office.
What Happens After I Enroll in VA Benefits?
Once your eligibility has been verified, VA healthcare professionals will provide a hearing exam. They will determine your need for a hearing aid, while at the same time determine your place on a priority list made up of other veterans needing similar care. For example, former prisoners of war or Purple Heart recipients may receive a higher priority.
If you qualify to receive a hearing aid, the VA will offer you two services:
– Low- or no-cost hearing healthcare, which includes hearing aids, provided by VA Health Benefits
– Monthly, tax-free payments in the form of VA Disability Compensation
What Kind of Hearing Aids Does the VA Provide?
At this point, it’s time to determine what kind of hearing aid will work best for your situation. The VA is contracted with several hearing aid manufacturers. They have many different types of hearing aids available, including behind-the-ear and in-the-canal devices, as well as cochlear implants.
A hearing specialist will help you find the right hearing aid for your lifestyle. This means hearing aids with Bluetooth connectivity and remote controls, or devices that dampen ambient sounds.
The VA typically reviews and updates its contracts on a two-year basis. You may want to check in periodically to see if you’re able to upgrade your hearing aids.