If you had to take a guess, what would you say is the most common armed forces-related injury suffered by our service members?
If you guessed that hearing loss is more widespread than post-traumatic stress disorder or physical battlefield injuries, you’d be absolutely correct.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates that nearly 3 million of our veterans receive disability benefits due to hearing-related injuries, including tinnitus and hearing loss. It’s no wonder, really: our troops are exposed to loud noises in almost every combat-related role and in 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 if they don’t take proper precautions, leading hearing loss that gets progressively worse as they age.
Considering the prevalence of ear injuries amongst our armed forces, 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 a diagnosis has been made, it’s time to contact the VA about receiving benefits to pay for your hearing aid.
VA Eligibility Need-to-Knows
The VA provides different levels of care depending on your eligibility status. For instance, VA disability benefits are available to those who suffered a disability – such as hearing loss – while serving on active duty. Other benefits are only available to those who served during times of war, including the Korean, Vietnam, and Middle East conflicts.
If you need help determining your eligibility status to receive a hearing aid, you should begin the process by either applying online, calling 1-877-222-VETS, or visiting your local VA healthcare facility or regional office.
What Happens After I’m Enrolled in VA Benefits?
Once your eligibility has been verified, VA healthcare professionals will provide a hearing exam to 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, veterans who were prisoners of war or were awarded a Purple Heart medal may receive a higher priority compared to other veterans suffering from hearing loss.
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?
If you’ve made it to this point in the VA eligibility and approval process, 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 and has 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 work with you to find the best hearing aid possible to meet your lifestyle needs and preferences. 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, so you may want to check in periodically to see if you’re able to upgrade your hearing aids.