What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a condition characterized by the perception of ringing, buzzing, hissing, or other sounds in the ears when no external sound source is present. It can be a symptom of an underlying issue like hearing loss, exposure to loud noises, or certain medical conditions. Many Veterans will report an intermittent ringing in the ears. However, it is important to understand that tinnitus is a continual condition. It may be softer and barely heard or even ignored completely when you are busy, but in truth it never fully goes away.
How Do I Prove Something Only I Can Hear?
To establish that you have tinnitus for the purpose of a disability claim or medical evaluation, it’s essential to provide clear and compelling evidence. Here are some steps you can take to help prove your case:
- Seek medical evaluation: Consult a healthcare professional, preferably an ear, nose, and throat specialist (otolaryngologist), who can diagnose and document your tinnitus. They may conduct hearing tests and assessments to evaluate the severity and impact of your condition.
- Maintain medical records: Keep detailed records of your medical appointments, including the dates, healthcare providers’ names, and the results of any tests or examinations related to your tinnitus.
- Describe symptoms: Document your tinnitus symptoms, including the type of sounds you hear (e.g., ringing, buzzing, hissing), the frequency and duration of episodes, and any factors that worsen or alleviate the symptoms.
- Identify potential causes: If you believe your tinnitus is related to military service, workplace noise exposure, or another specific event, provide documentation or witnesses to support your claim.
- Gather supporting evidence: Collect any relevant medical reports, audiograms, and records of treatment or therapy you’ve received for tinnitus. Statements from friends, family, or coworkers who have witnessed your condition can also be helpful.
- Consult with a Veterans Service Officer (VSO): If you’re a veteran seeking a VA disability rating, consider working with a VSO, such as those from veterans’ service organizations or state agencies. They can assist you in navigating the VA claims process and ensure you submit a well-documented claim.
- Complete VA forms: If applying for VA disability benefits, you’ll need to fill out specific forms, such as the VA Form 21-526EZ (Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits). Ensure that you provide accurate and thorough information about your tinnitus on these forms.
Tinnitus is the most commonly claimed VA Disability. However, th case must be prepared carefully to demonstrate a service-connection, especially if you have been out fo service for a number of years and were not diagnosed with tinnitus while in serve. Veterans who had jobs that exposed them to loud noises may only have to explain that their tinnitus is from exposure to noise such as that on a flight line, or from artillery. As always, we highly recommend working with a local VSO.
What is the VA Rating for Tinnitus?
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) rates tinnitus based on its impact on a veteran’s ability to function. The specific rating levels can vary, but tinnitus is typically rated under the VA’s disability rating system on a scale of 0% to 10%, with 10% being the maximum rating. The rating is determined based on factors such as the severity and frequency of the tinnitus and how it affects daily life and hearing.