va Ratings for hearing-related disabilities

What Veterans Need to Know About Tinnitus, Hearing Loss, Hyperacusis and More

As a veteran, you've devoted your life to serving our country. Now it's time for the country to serve you. If you're experiencing hearing-related issues due to your military service, you're not alone. Tinnitus, hearing loss, and other auditory conditions are among the most common disabilities affecting veterans. Let's dive explore VA ratings and claims for these conditions, arming you with the knowledge you need to navigate the sometimes choppy waters of the VA claims process.


Tinnitus and VA Ratings

Tinnitus, often described as a persistent ringing, buzzing, or whistling in the ears, is the number one disability among veterans. It's more than just an annoyance – it can significantly impact your quality of life. But how does the VA view tinnitus when it comes to disability ratings?

  • VA Rating for Tinnitus (Diagnostic Code 6260):
    • 10%: This is the only rating available for tinnitus
    • Example: Persistent ringing in one or both ears that impacts daily life

It's important to note that this 10% rating is the maximum for tinnitus, regardless of whether it affects one or both ears. The VA considers tinnitus a single disability, even if it's bilateral.

Proving service connection for tinnitus can be challenging. The VA needs evidence that your tinnitus began during or was caused by your military service. To strengthen your case, consider these steps:

  1. Document when you first noticed the ringing in your ears
  2. Gather statements from fellow service members who may have witnessed your exposure to loud noises
  3. Collect medical records showing treatment or complaints of tinnitus during service

Tinnitus often goes hand-in-hand with hearing loss. If you're experiencing both, make sure to claim them separately for a potentially higher combined rating.


Hearing Loss VA Rating

While tinnitus might be straightforward in terms of VA ratings, hearing loss is a different ball game. The VA uses a complex formula to determine your disability rating for hearing loss, based on the results of two tests: the Maryland CNC test and the puretone audiometric test.

  • VA Ratings for Hearing Loss (Diagnostic Code 6100):
    • 0%: Minimal hearing loss that doesn't significantly impact daily life
    • 10%: Mild hearing loss, may have difficulty hearing in noisy environments
    • 20%: Moderate hearing loss, struggles to understand conversations without visual cues
    • 30%: Moderately severe hearing loss, significant difficulty in most listening situations
    • 40%: Severe hearing loss, cannot understand speech without amplification
    • 50%: Profound hearing loss, even with hearing aids, communication is extremely difficult
    • 60% to 100%: These higher ratings are rare and typically involve near-total deafness in both ears


  • 0%: A veteran who can generally hear well but struggles slightly in crowded rooms
  • 30%: A veteran who needs people to speak loudly and clearly to understand them
  • 50%: A veteran who relies heavily on lip-reading and hearing aids for communication

It's crucial to understand that hearing aids don't necessarily impact your VA rating. The VA rates your hearing loss based on your hearing ability without aids.

Bilateral Hearing Loss VA Rating

For veterans with bilateral hearing loss (affecting both ears), the VA considers the severity in each ear separately before combining them for a final rating. This can result in a higher overall rating compared to unilateral hearing loss.

  • VA Ratings for Bilateral Hearing Loss:
    • The rating system is the same as for general hearing loss (Diagnostic Code 6100)
    • However, the VA uses a special formula to combine the ratings for each ear


  • A veteran with 30% hearing loss in the right ear and 20% in the left might receive a combined rating of 40% for bilateral hearing loss

Hyperacusis VA Rating

While less common than tinnitus or hearing loss, hyperacusis – an increased sensitivity to certain frequencies and volumes of sound – can be just as debilitating. The VA recognizes hyperacusis as a disability, but it doesn't have a specific diagnostic code.

  • VA Ratings for Hyperacusis:
    • Often rated analogous to tinnitus (Diagnostic Code 6260) at 10%
    • In severe cases, it may be rated under Diagnostic Code 6205 (Meniere's syndrome):
      • 30%: Vertigo and cerebellar gait occurring one to four times a month, with or without tinnitus
      • 60%: Vertigo and cerebellar gait occurring more than once weekly, with or without tinnitus
      • 100%: Vertigo and cerebellar gait occurring more than once weekly, with tinnitus and hearing impairment


  • 10%: A veteran who experiences pain or discomfort from everyday sounds like running water or normal conversation
  • 60%: A veteran whose hyperacusis causes severe vertigo multiple times a week, significantly impacting their ability to work

If you're dealing with hyperacusis, it's crucial to document how it impacts your daily life. Does it cause pain? Affect your ability to work or socialize? These details can help the VA understand the severity of your condition.


How to Get a VA Rating for Hearing Loss - VA Hearing Test

The VA hearing test is a critical component of your disability claim for hearing-related issues. But here's the kicker – you can't "fail" the VA hearing test. The test is designed to measure your hearing abilities accurately, not to pass or fail you. These tests are available to those on VA health care. To get a hearing test, discuss your concerns with your VA doctor. Your test will normally be conducted at your local VA audiology clinic.

During the test, you'll undergo a series of examinations, including:

  1. Puretone Audiometric Test: Measures hearing threshold levels
  2. Maryland CNC Test: Evaluates speech recognition ability
  3. Tympanometry: Assesses middle ear function
  4. Acoustic Reflex Testing: Checks the function of the acoustic reflex pathway

It's crucial to be honest about your hearing difficulties. Don't try to compensate or guess – this could lead to an inaccurate assessment of your condition.

Appealing Denied VA Hearing Loss Claims

Unlike some other service-connected disabilities, hearing loss ratings are based on objective test results. These audiometric tests provide concrete data that the VA uses to determine disability ratings. Because of this, it's exceptionally challenging to overturn a denied hearing loss claim or increase a rating for hearing loss if the test results don't support it. Even with a strong appeal, the VA typically won't adjust a hearing loss rating unless new audiometric tests show a worsening of the condition. This doesn't mean you shouldn't seek the benefits you've earned, but it does underscore the importance of thorough and accurate initial testing. If you believe your hearing has worsened since your last VA evaluation, you may be eligible for a re-examination and should contact your VA doctor to discuss testing options.