Citation Nr: 18132339
Decision Date: 09/06/18	Archive Date: 09/06/18

DOCKET NO. 14-01 503
DATE:	September 6, 2018
Entitlement to a left ear hearing loss disability is granted.
1. The Veteran experienced in-service acoustic trauma.
2. After affording the Veteran the benefit of the doubt, the Veteran has a left ear hearing loss disability for VA purposes that is related to his military service.
The criteria for service connection for a left ear hearing loss disability have been met. 38 U.S.C. §§ 1101, 1110, 1131, 5107 (2012); 38 C.F.R. §§ 3.102, 3.303, 3.304, 3.307, 3.309, 3.385 (2017).
The Veteran served on active duty from December 1985 to August 1986, from August 1990 to October 1990, and from August 2003 to December 2003.
In July 2018, the Veteran provided testimony in a Board video conference hearing before the undersigned Veterans Law Judge. A copy of the hearing transcript is associated with the claims file.
Entitlement to a left ear hearing loss disability.
Service connection may be granted for a disability resulting from a disease or injury incurred in or aggravated by active military, naval, or air service. 38 U.S.C. §§ 1110; 38 C.F.R. § 3.303(a). Service connection may also be granted for any disease diagnosed after discharge, when all the evidence, including that pertinent to service, establishes that the disease was incurred in service. 38 C.F.R. § 3.303(d). Establishing service connection generally requires (1) evidence of a current disability; (2) evidence of in-service incurrence or aggravation of a disease or injury; and (3) evidence of a nexus between the claimed in-service disease or injury and the present disability. Shedden v. Principi, 381 F.3d 1163, 1167 (Fed. Cir. 2004). 
In deciding an appeal, the Board must analyze the credibility and probative value of the evidence, account for the evidence, which it finds to be persuasive or unpersuasive, and provide the reasons for its rejection of any material favorable to the claimant. Competency of evidence differs from weight and credibility. Competency is a legal concept determining whether testimony may be heard and considered by the trier of fact, while credibility is a factual determination going to the probative value of the evidence to be made after the evidence has been admitted. Rucker v. Brown, 10 Vet. App. 67, 74 (1997). 
When all the evidence is assembled, VA is responsible for determining whether the evidence supports the claim or is in relative equipoise, with a veteran prevailing in either event, or whether a preponderance of the evidence is against a claim, in which case, the claim is denied. 38 U.S.C. § 5107(b); 38 C.F.R. § 3.102. 
Specific to claims for service connection, impaired hearing is considered a disability for VA purposes when the auditory threshold in any of the frequencies of 500, 1,000, 2,000, 3,000, or 4,000 Hertz is 40 decibels or greater; or when the auditory thresholds for at least three of these frequencies are 26 or greater; or when speech recognition scores using the Maryland CNC Test are less than 94 percent. 38 C.F.R. § 3.385. In evaluating claims of service connection for hearing loss disability, it is observed that the threshold for normal hearing is from zero to 20 decibels, with higher threshold levels indicating some degree of hearing loss. Hensley v. Brown, 5 Vet. App. 155, 157 (1993).
The Veteran contends that service connection for a left ear hearing loss disability is warranted because it was caused by his in-service exposure to acoustic trauma.
The Veteran has a current left ear hearing loss disability for VA purposes, as documented in the March 2013 VA examination report.  Thus, there is evidence of a current disability.
As to an in-service disease or injury, the Veteran was exposed to in-service acoustic trauma. The Veteran’s various Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty (DD-214) indicate that while in the Air Force, the Veteran had primary specialties of avionic navigation specialist; communication and navigation systems specialist; and integrated avionic systems communications, navigation, and mission. The Veteran testified at the July 2018 Board video conference hearing that due to his involvement in communications, he exposed to acoustic trauma in service including generators and aircraft.
The evidence supports a link, or nexus, between the Veteran’s current left ear hearing loss disability and his in-service exposure to acoustic trauma. The February 2013 VA examiner opined that the Veteran’s bilateral hearing loss disability was less likely than not caused by or a result of military noise exposure based on a lack of significant threshold shift at the 6000 Hz frequency, although a significant threshold shift at 3000 Hz was noted. However, at the July 2018 Board video conference hearing, the Veteran testified that he had minimal exposure to hazardous noise after service and “not more than probably a lawnmower.” The Board notes that the Veteran’s left ear hearing at entrance to his last period of service would not be considered at the level of a disability for VA purposes. 38 C.F.R. § 3.385. After affording the Veteran the benefit of the doubt and the Veteran’s consistent, credible lay contentions of noise exposure in-service given his MOS, and lack of hazardous noise exposure post-service, the Board finds that his left ear hearing loss disability is etiologically related to service. 
For these reasons, and resolving reasonable doubt in favor of the Veteran, the Board finds that the criteria for service connection for a left ear hearing loss disability have been met. See 38 U.S.C. § 5107(b); 38 C.F.R. § 3.102.
Veterans Law Judge
Board of Veterans’ Appeals
ATTORNEY FOR THE BOARD	D. Cheng, Associate Counsel 

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