What Is Tinnitus And How Is It Rated?

Tinnitus is the perception of ringing or noise in the ears. It is not an actual condition but the symptom of a condition. It can be caused by and injury to the ear, age-related hearing loss, or a disorder of the circulatory system. Tinnitus affects roughly 1 in 5 people.

To show service connection, there must be evidence of ringing in ears, hearing loss, or ear injury while the veteran was in service or a year after service and/or a diagnosis by a doctor indicating that it is as likely as not that the condition was caused by the veteran’s time in service.

Tinnitus is rated at 10% under Diagnostic code 6260. It is not rated at 20% if it is in both ears; 10% is the maximum rating for the condition.

Establishing Service Connection For Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can be either the condition itself or secondary to another injury. To establish service connection, the veteran must have:

  • 1. A current diagnosis of a hearing condition;
  • 2. Evidence of an event that caused the condition; and
  • 3. A medical opinion linking the current hearing condition to the event in service or nexus.

What Degree Of Hearing Loss Is Compensable?

Hearing loss ratings are based on the hearing loss of both ears to determine an overall disability.

Two tests must be done to determine hearing impairment. Both ears must be tested or else it is assumed that one ear is normal and the overall rating is affected.

The first test is a speech discrimination test which determines ability to understand words with the hearing loss. Words will be read by the tester in a controlled environment and the veteran will need to repeat the words back to the best of their ability.

The audiologist may choose not to conduct this test in circumstances where language difficulties would not accurately demonstrate a true hearing impairment. If this is the case, the condition will be rated only on the second test.

The second test is a puretone audiometry test which measures the loudness and pitches at which the veteran can hear. The numbers associated with the measurements are called hearing “thresholds”. The higher the score (0-110), the louder it had to be for you to hear it with 0 standing for normal hearing level. The important final result is a reading at four different frequencies: 1000, 2000, 3000, and 4000 Hertz. These frequencies are the ones most used to hear people speak. To calculate hearing loss the 4 thresholds are averaged (the sum of the results of thresholds 1000, 2000, 3000, and 4000 Hertz, divided by 4).

The VA then assigns a Roman numeral needs to each ear which is compared to a rating chart. This Roman numeral is assigned by looking at the results of both tests. For example, if the puretone test result is 62, and the speech test result is 77%, then the Roman numeral for this ear would be IV. (See 38 CFR §§ 4.85-4.87 Diagnostic code 6100).

Puretone Threshold Average →
% of Speech Discrimination on ↓
0-41 42-49 50-57 58-65 66-73 74-81 82-89 90-97 98 +
92-100% I I I II II II III III IV
84-90% II II II III III III IV IV IV
76-82% III III IV IV IV V V V V
68-74% IV IV V V VI VI VII VII VII
60-66% V V VI VI VII VII VIII VIII VIII
52-58% VI VI VII VII VIII VIII VIII VIII IX
44-50% VII VII VIII VIII VIII IX IX IX X
36-42% VIII VIII VIII IX IX IX X X X
0-34% IX X XI XI XI XI XI XI XI

If the audiologist decided that a speech discrimination test was not necessary, then a Roman numeral can be assigned for each ear based on the following table.

Puretone Threshold Average 0-41 42-48 49-55 56-62 63-69 70-76 77-83 84-90 91-97 98-104 105 +
Roman Numeral I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX X XI

Once a Roman Numeral is established for both ears, the chart below is used to determine the overall rating.

Worst Ear → 
Best Ear ↓
I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX X XI
I 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 10% 10%
II 0% 0% 0% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10% 10%
III 0% 10% 10% 10% 20% 20% 20% 20% 20%
IV 10% 10% 20% 20% 20% 30% 30% 30%
V 20% 20% 30% 30% 40% 40% 40%
VI 30% 30% 40% 40% 50% 50%
VII 40% 40% 50% 60% 60%
VIII 50% 50% 60% 70%
IX 60% 70% 80%
X 80% 90%
XI 100%

If you believe the VA has wrongfully denied service connected disability benefits, please contact us today at 800-555-2989, or complete a case evaluation form here to receive a free evaluation.