If you get confused with how VA rates most types of disabilities, your VA hearing loss claim will probably make your head spin. Nevertheless, we will try to tackle it here to explain as simply as possible how VA hearing loss claims are supposed to be rated.
On the one hand, these claims should be easy for VA to get right since it is all based on numbers from the audiological testing. On the other hand, though, there are several steps to evaluating a VA hearing loss claim properly.
We have seen several instances where VA did not go through each of these steps. The result? You guessed it – a lower VA hearing loss rating than the veteran deserved. Keep reading to see how to avoid this for your claim.
Do I Need a Certain Type of VA Hearing Loss Test to Support my Claim?
Yes. The test must include a controlled speech discrimination test (Maryland CNC) and a puretone audiometry test. The Maryland CNC test is a particular word list that is used to test your ability to hear spoken words. A puretone audiometry test is different tones that must be detected at varying frequencies (low frequencies to high frequencies). Even if you only claim hearing loss in one ear, both ears should be tested. Examinations will be conducted without the use of hearing aids.
Who Needs to Conduct My Test for VA Hearing Loss?
An examination for hearing impairment for VA purposes must be conducted by a state-licensed audiologist. Although the testing results should include information on who conducted the test, you will want to include that information if it is not clear so that VA does not use that as a basis to ignore your test results and deny your claim.
How Your Two Tests Are Used to Calculate Your VA Hearing Loss Disability Rating
Your speech discrimination score will be a percentage of the words you understood during the test. Look down the left-hand side of the Table VI below to see what row you should be on.
Your puretone threshold score will be the average decibel loss from the frequencies of 1000 Hertz, 2000 Hertz, 3000 Hertz, and 4000 Hertz. Staying on the chart’s row you had based on the speech discrimination score, move to the right based on the average decibel loss in the puretone threshold test. Do this for each ear.
You will then combine these two Roman numeral in Table VII (bottom of this page) to get the overall VA hearing loss rating.
An Example of a 60% VA Hearing Loss Disability Rating
Here’s an example to illustrate the point. Let’s say your test results showed:
RIGHT SPEECH DISCRIMINATION: 44
RIGHT PURETONE THRESHOLD
Right Puretone Threshold Average: 63
LEFT SPEECH DISCRIMINATION: 48
LEFT PURETONE THRESHOLD
Left Puretone Threshold Average: 66
Using Table VI, the right ear would be designated as VIII based on a puretone threshold average of 63 and a speech discrimination score of 44. However, you must then look to see if the scores meet the criteria for a higher numeric designation based on “exceptional patterns of hearing impairment.” You get a higher rating if (a) or (b) is true:
(a) When the puretone threshold at each of the four specified frequencies (1000, 2000, 3000, and 4000 Hertz) is 55 decibels or more, the rating specialist will determine the Roman numeral designation for hearing impairment from either Table VI or Table VIa, whichever results in the higher numeral. Each ear will be evaluated separately.
(b) When the puretone threshold is 30 decibels or less at 1000 Hertz, and 70 decibels or more at 2000 Hertz, the rating specialist will determine the Roman numeral designation for hearing impairment from either Table VI or Table VIA, whichever results in the higher numeral. That numeral will then be elevated to the next higher Roman numeral. Each ear will be evaluated separately.
In this case, the right ear does qualify for a higher numeric designation of IX since you would have hearing loss of 30 dB or less at 1000 Hertz and 70 dB or more at 2000 Hertz.
Using Table VI , the left ear would be designated as VIII based on a puretone threshold average of 66 and a speech discrimination score of 48. However, one must then look to see if the scores meet the criteria for a higher numeric designation. In this case, the left ear does qualify for a higher numeric designation of IX since Appellant has hearing loss of 30 dB or less at 1000 Hertz and 70 dB or more at 2000 Hertz.
These numeric designations for each ear are then placed on the grid in Table VII.
Because both ears are designated as IX, either ear can be placed on either axis of the grid. A IX and a IX equate to a 60% evaluation for hearing impairment.
We Can Help Make Sense of Your VA Hearing Loss Disability Rating
So, is your head spinning yet? It may be a good idea to have a VA-accredited attorney review your Ratings Decision and claim. If you want us to look it over for you, just click here and complete the form to email us and set up a free veterans disability consultation.