Larry Dandridge

Hearing problems most prevalent service-connected disability among Veterans


The first two articles in this series on VA hearing (audiology) services answered 18 common questions about VA hearing services and service-connected disability based on hearing loss and other hearing problems. 

This final article answers five more questions about VA hearing services and explains how to file a claim for service-connected disability based on hearing problems. It also explains how to determine eligibility for VA healthcare and provides information on how to contact your S.C. County Veterans Service Officer (VSO). 

Finally, this column encourages all veterans to apply for service-connected disability compensation and health care for hearing injuries, disease, or problems caused or worsened by military service. 

19. What hearing aid accessories can I order through the VA? 

Answer: In addition to batteries, a veteran can order these accessories for VA-issued hearing aids: domes, wax guards, cleaning supplies, and desiccant (drying products). To find out which batteries you can order, download the VA’s Denver Acquisition and Logistics Center (DLC) Catalog, at https://www.va.gov/opal/ docs/nac/dlc/catalogBatteries.pdf. 

20. Has the Ralph H. Johnson VA Health Care System clinic received any special awards? 

Answer: The RHJVAHCS Audiology Team was recently recognized for being one of two Medical Centers operating at 100 percent of pre-covid capacity. Ralph Johnson was the first site to get back to 100 percent of pre-covid capacity in October 2020. Kent Flanagan and the Biomed Department was recently recognized for introducing an “ear canal stent” in April 2021. 

21. Is there somewhere that a veteran can read about VA research related to hearing? 

Answer: Yes, Read about VA new, ongoing, and published research on hearing loss at https://www.research. va.gov/topics/hearing.cfm. This informative site gives valuable information on The National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research, hearing aids, Cochlear implants, Tinnitus, VA care, and blast injuries and other forms of hearing loss. 

This site states that studies show: 

Mental health symptoms are strongly associated with tinnitus severity and the need for coordinated care between tinnitus and mental health care services is great. 

Tinnitus rates are increasing for active-duty service members. 

Both PTSD and traumatic brain injury (TBI) are linked to worsening tinnitus. 

Blast exposures are linked to decreased sound tolerance and other medical problems. 

22. Where can I read details about rehabilitation and prosthetic services for hearing problems? 

Answer: Veterans and their families should go to the VA’s Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Services (Audiology) web site at https:// www.rehab.va.gov/PROSTHETICS/audiology/index. asp and read about VHA Audiology services, tele-health services, Enterprise Remote Tuning of Hearing Instruments (ERTHI), the VA’s Denver Logistic Center (DLC), how to order batteries through the DLC, how to request hearing aid repair through the DLC, how to order batteries through VA.gov, and VHA Cochlear Implant Centers. 

This site also provides links to vendor resources to assist with patient at home hearing aid and accessory maintenance. These links provide instructions through pamphlets and videos for hearing aid care for Oticon, Phonak, ReSound, Signia, and Starkey brand hearing devices. 

23. What are some of the common signs and symptoms of hearing loss? 

Answer: Difficulty understanding words, trouble hearing consonants, frequently asking others to speak louder or more slowly, and needing to turn the volume up high on electronic devices 

24. What are some of the VA rating percentages for hearing problems that are service connected? 

Answer: VA rating percentages are subject to change but here are a few examples: Recurrent Tinnitus (10 percent), Chronic Suppurative Otitis Media (10percent), Peripheral Vestibular Disorders (10-30 percent), and Meniere’s Syndrome (30- 100 percent). 

At the very least, hearing loss negatively impacts a veteran’s quality of life, ability to work, mental health, safety, and daily functioning. Because hearing loss can significantly alter a veteran’s life, veterans should: 

Determine if they are eligible for VA healthcare. Go to https://www.va.gov/ health-care/apply/application/introduction to read about how to apply for VA healthcare or visit the Eligibility Office at the RHJVA Medical Center or your nearest CBOC. 

If they have military service-connected disability due to service-connected hearing loss, apply for VA service-connected disability compensation. Go to https://www.va.gov/ disability/file-disability-claim-form-21-526ez/introduction to find out how to apply for compensation. 

If you are eligible for VA healthcare, schedule an examination of your hearing either through your VA Primary Care Physician or directly with your nearest VA Audiology clinic. 

Use your local S.C. County Veterans Service Office to help you apply for service- connected disability compensation and answer questions about VA benefits. The Beaufort County Veterans Affairs Office is located at 100 Clear Water Way, Beaufort, SC 29906. The phone no. is 843-255-6880. 

Visits require an appointment. Read about the services provided by the Beaufort County Vets Service Office at https//www. beaufortcountysc.gov/veterans-affairs/index.html. You can find a list of all SC County Veterans Service Offices at https://scdva.sc.gov/county-veterans-affairs-offices. 

Please take advantage of your hard-earned veterans’ benefits. All of you Army and Marine Corps veterans who fired artillery; all of you Navy vets who fired Naval big guns; all of you veterans who fired weapons of any size frequently; all of you vets who flew and worked on helicopter, airplane, and tank turbine engines; all of you who busted your ear drums flying, diving, or in a blast; all of you who worked around generators; and all who were subjected to loud noise are almost certain to be suffering from hearing loss and injuries. 

The author sincerely thanks Dr. David Chin, the Chief of the Audiology Department and William Brugge, the Assistant Public Affairs Officer, at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center for the information they provided to help with the publication of this article. 

Larry Dandridge is a retired Lt. Col. In the U.S. Army. He is a Vietnam War era wounded warrior, a combat and 100 percent disabled veteran, a former Infantryman, former Warrant Officer and pilot. Dandridge is also a past Veterans Service Officer, and a current volunteer Patient Adviser, CEO Advisory Council Member, and Patient and Family Advisory Committee Member at the RHJ VA Medical Center, as well as a published author and free-lance writer. He can be reached at LDandridge@earthlink.net. 

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