VA Disability Rating for Hearing Loss

As a veteran with hearing loss, you may be saddened to hear that getting a disability rating for your condition can often be hard. However, with a proper understanding of the rating process, you may become one of the lucky veterans who enjoy disability compensation for hearing loss.

The VA usually provides a 10% disability rating for hearing loss. However, compared to other conditions, getting such a low rating can be hard due to the complication of verifying service connection with hearing loss. 

This guide will go through the common issues when trying to get a disability rating for hearing loss, including information about the potential rating you may get for this condition. By the end, you will know whether your hearing loss symptoms can lead to you getting a disability rating.


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Prevalence of Hearing Loss among Veterans

Prevalence of Hearing Loss among Veterans

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 2.7 million veterans receive disability benefits for hearing loss or tinnitus, making it one of the most common VA-rated conditions. Veterans are approximately 30% more likely to suffer from severe hearing impairment compared to regular civilians.

During active duty, many veterans had to endure high-intensity noises, such as artillery fire, gunfire, aircraft, heavy equipment, tanks, and roadside bombs. This exposure to extremely loud noises is the leading cause of hearing loss among veterans. 

On the other hand, hearing loss may not solely depend on service-related factors since many veterans can experience age-related hearing loss, which their military service can worsen. 

Establishing Service Connections for Hearing Loss

Since getting disability benefits for hearing loss can be a challenge, it’s crucial to understand how to build a service connection for the condition. A service connection is a link that can connect a veteran’s hearing loss to their time in service – for example, an in-service event or injury. Here are the most important factors to consider when establishing service connection for hearing problems –

Current Diagnosis

The first step is to acquire a current diagnosis of hearing loss by a state-licensed audiologist. Specialized hearing tests like the Maryland CNC Test and Pure-Tone Audiometric Test are relied on by the VA, and an audiologist does these examinations.

In-Service Events

Next, you need to establish a service connection that explains the correlation between your hearing loss and your time in the service. Evidence of in-service events, such as an injury or exposure that can cause or worsen this condition, can be helpful when presenting a claim.  

Medical Opinion

Medical opinions from qualified professionals are substantial when trying to prove that your hearing loss is caused by military service. A nexus letter, for example, works really well in this case since it is written by a qualified medical professional who outlines that your condition is likely caused or accelerated by an in-service event.

While gathering evidence, it’s essential to understand that it might be difficult to establish a service connection for hearing loss if the condition appears after retirement from active duty. 

Diagnosing Hearing Loss for VA Purposes

Unlike other conditions where a simple diagnosis can be enough when applying for a disability claim, it is more complex when it comes to hearing loss. Here are the critical aspects of diagnosing hearing loss for receiving VA disability benefits –

Audiological Evaluation

An audiological evaluation is the first step of the lengthy diagnosis process, and a state-licensed audiologist conducts the examination. 

Maryland CNC Test

The VA relies on specific tests for rating hearing loss, and one of them is the Maryland CNC Test. This test is also done by an audiologist who examines veterans’ ability to recognize and respond to spoken words. During the test, a list of 50 words is spoken by a reader.

Pure-Tone Audiometric Test

The VA also employs the Pure-Tone Audiometric Test, which measures a veteran’s sensitivity to noises of different pitches and loudness, basically frequencies and decibels. Conducted in a soundproof room, the veteran will be wearing a pair of headphones that will play different kinds of tones. 

Speech Reception Threshold (SRT) Test 

Although not as common, some audiologists may also utilize the SRT test, which is an examination to find out the faintest level of spoken word a veteran can understand.

Speech-in-Noise (SIN) Test

The SIN test determines veterans’ ability to hear in noisy environments. This test can also be taken by the audiologist when examining someone’s hearing loss.

Hearing Loss Caused by Faulty Earplugs

Hearing Loss Caused by Faulty Earplugs
Credit: DM Law USA

The dual-ended combat arms earplugs made by 3M were supposed to provide hearing protection during combat and training, and veterans who served between 2003 and 2015 have used this device to protect their ears. However, it was later discovered that these earplugs were not optimal for providing such protection due to their faulty design. 

As a result, veterans who have used these earplugs are highly likely to develop hearing conditions as they were exposed to loud noises without the right protection gear. If you are one of those members who have used the 3M earplugs, it’s crucial that you mention this fact when establishing a service connection. 

Potential VA Disability Ratings for Hearing Loss

The most common VA rating assigned for hearing loss is 10%, and it can be even greater in rare cases. To reflect the level of hearing loss, the VA uses a rating system with a Roman numeral assignment for each ear. 

Can Tinnitus Lead to a Higher VA Disability Rating for Hearing Loss?

Can Tinnitus Lead to a Higher VA Disability Rating for Hearing Loss? The tinnitus rating criteria used by the VA considers the impact this persistent ringing in the ears has on a veteran’s overall hearing ability. If tinnitus significantly impairs hearing, it may contribute to a higher disability rating for hearing loss. The severity and frequency of tinnitus symptoms are crucial factors in determining the appropriate VA disability rating.


Since hearing loss is a very common problem in regular Americans, it’s hard to prove the service connection of the condition without a strong link. As a result, you have to prepare a strong claim to receive your disability benefits, and professionals at VA Disability Coach can help you understand and build a flawless claim.