Despite rarely receiving a rating of more than 10%, tinnitus is the most common VA disability claim. In many cases, tinnitus is considered a secondary disability to conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), or temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).
Tinnitus Symptoms and Treatment Options
Tinnitus is characterized by hearing sound when no external sound is actually present. The sound is often described as ringing, buzzing, hissing, clicking, or whistling in the ears. The symptoms are most pronounced at night or in very quiet environments.
Tinnitus is usually caused by prolonged exposure to loud noise—which is common among those serving in all branches of the military. It can affect one or both ears.
Tinnitus can be treated using white noise devices or medication. However, the condition can be very distracting and bothersome. Untreated tinnitus or tinnitus accompanied by hearing loss can lead to additional medical problems such as fatigue from lack of sleep and a worsening of depression or anxiety.
Receiving VA Disability Benefits for Tinnitus
To win a claim for tinnitus, you’ll need to provide:
- Service records showing prolonged noise exposure during combat and/or training exercises
- Medical records showing you did not have hearing-related issues before enlistment
- Statements from your doctors describing your symptoms and the treatment you’ve received
- An expert’s medical opinion regarding the cause of your tinnitus
Benefits of a Non-Compensable Rating
Since it’s rare to receive a rating of more than 10% for your tinnitus, it’s possible that you may receive a 0% or non-compensable rating. This means, the VA recognizes you have a service-connected disability, but your current condition isn’t severe enough to qualify for cash benefits.
While a 0% rating may be disappointing, it does provide a range of benefits that includes access to free medical treatment for your condition at the VA and reimbursement for travel costs related to seeking care from a VA medical facility or a VA authorized care provider. If you have multiple non-compensable disabilities, they can be collectively given a 10% rating if these conditions together limit your employability.