Almost half of all Americans over 65 have some form of hearing loss.
Hearing loss and tinnitus are the most prevalent service-connected disabilities of all compensation recipients among Veterans.
And it’s not a recent problem. Auditory system disabilities (including hearing loss and tinnitus) are among the most common service-related disabilities in every period of service since WWII.
The most common type of hearing loss among Veterans is a high-frequency hearing loss that varies in severity from mild to profound. This type of hearing loss is generally caused by noise exposure, age or both.
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is the medical term for the perception of sound in the ears or head when no external noise is present.
The sound can be intermittent or constant, range in severity from mild to severe, and is often described as a ringing, roaring or humming sound.
Although the cause of tinnitus is unknown, there are likely sources that trigger or worsen tinnitus:
- Hearing loss
- Noise exposure
- Injury to head or neck
- Excessive ear wax
- Ototoxicity – drug or chemical damage to the inner
Currently, there is no cure for tinnitus. However, there are treatment options. The most common include education, sound therapy (including hearing aids), and counseling/psychotherapy.
The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids and/or cochlear implants. Audiologists work with Veterans and their families to improve communication by using advanced technologies and extensive counseling.
VA offers comprehensive care services to Veterans with hearing loss, tinnitus, and balance disorders. We are the largest employer of audiologists in the United States, employing over 1,300 audiologists.
Through the use of Clinical Video Telehealth, over 70 medical centers currently provide care to 210 VA clinics by connecting patients with providers at the medical center. Services available through telehealth include hearing evaluations, hearing aid fittings and follow-ups, auditory rehabilitation and tinnitus management. The VA Audiology and Speech Pathology National Program Office is also exploring ways to provide services directly into the Veteran’s home through computer technologies and mobile device applications.
Who is eligible for audiology care?
All Veterans enrolled in VA’s health care system are eligible for comprehensive audiology diagnostic evaluations. Specific eligibility rules apply to hearing aid services. Ask your VA doctor for a hearing test if you have concerns about your hearing.
No need for a referral
According to Dr. Rachel McArdle, “Veterans who are enrolled and eligible for VA care can call their VA audiology clinic and ask to be scheduled to have their hearing tested. Additionally, they can always stop at the audiology clinic if they are already at the hospital or clinic for another appointment and ask to be scheduled.” Dr. McArdle is the National Director of Audiology and Speech Pathology.