Disability Benefits for Veterans with Hearing Loss & Tinnitus

Service veterans suffering from hearing loss, including tinnitus, may be eligible for disability benefits under Service Canada. Disability benefits are financial payments provided to persons who have a service-related disability and this disability can include certain hearing loss. To receive a benefit, applicants must have their hearing loss diagnosed as a medical condition or disability. They must also be able to demonstrate that the condition or disability is related to their service.

Hearing loss is a potentially serious condition that currently affects millions of Canadians. There are two general types of hearing loss: sensorineural (sometimes called perceptive) and conductive hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss occurs when there is a problem conducting sound waves anywhere along the route through the outer ear, eardrum, or middle ear. More succinctly, in these cases, there is a problem with the mechanism in the ear that conducts sound from the external environment to the inner ear. Sensorineural hearing loss describes a problem in the vestibule-cochlear nerve, the inner ear, or central processing centers of the brain. Such loss can be congenital or acquired, including exposure to loud sounds for sustained periods of time. On occasion, a conductive hearing loss occurs in combination with a sensorineural hearing loss. In these situations there is damage to both the outer or middle ear as well as in the inner ear or auditory nerve. This combination of causes results in what is referred to as mixed hearing loss.

For the purposes of benefit qualifications, hearing loss is initially measured by an audiogram and a hearing loss disability exists when certain degrees of decibel loss are met. Not all hearing loss qualifies for benefits. Additionally, the cause of the hearing loss cannot be determined from an audiogram alone. The history of the patient’s service, a physical examination of anatomical structures, and relevant test results are all considered along with the audiogram findings.

Causes of hearing loss can be diverse, but include exposure to at least one episode of acoustic trauma. Acoustic trauma is defined as intense exposure to loud noise. Examples include fireworks, gunfire, and explosions such as from grenades, mines, or bombs. Extremely loud noises can rupture the ear drum, causing significant damage while less intense acoustic trauma can result in pain, temporary and permanent hearing loss, and tinnitus. Other sources of hearing loss include prolonged exposure to noise with or without proper ear protection, aging, the use of certain prescription drugs, head injuries, and some diseases. Benefit qualification is made on a case-by-case basis through a process defined and administered by Service Canada.

Disability benefits for service-related hearing loss can be in the form of a regular pension or a one-time award. In all cases, the benefit is calculated by the degree to which the disability is related to the service and the extent of the disability. Hearing loss can greatly affect the quality of one’s life and the benefits are designed to best provide financial compensation for such issues for service veterans.