Serving as a member of the Armed Forces in the United States military is one of the noblest choices a person can make, but it can also have lasting health effects years after ending active duty.
Some of the most common health concerns include hearing loss, hearing damage, and tinnitus, with over 1 million veterans receiving disability compensation each year for hearing-related issues.
The process to receive compensation for hearing aids and cochlear implants can seem daunting, but the VA has made sure to provide a streamlined system of aid and ample options of hearing aids to any veteran who qualifies.
Thus, finding VA hearing aid choices is a straightforward process.
Who Qualifies for Hearing Aid Compensation?
The first question you want to answer is this, “Do I qualify for compensation from the VA for my hearing loss?”.
First things first, you must be a registered member with a VA Medical Center of your choice. If you are already a registered member of a VA Medical Center, then you are on your way.
If you are not registered, you can enroll in-person at any VA Medical Center or Clinic, apply online or through the mail by filling out a Form 10-10EZ.
You can find and contact your local VA Medical center through the link here: https://www.va.gov/find-locations/. Once enrolled, you will be able to schedule an appointment with the Audiology and Speech Pathology Clinic for a hearing evaluation.
After testing, the audiologist will determine if they believe hearing aids are recommended.
What Tests Does the VA Use for Determining Hearing Capabilities?
There are two common tests used by VA audiologists when attempting to determine the presence and level of hearing damage with hearing-impaired veterans.
The Maryland CNC test uses a prerecorded list of 50 words spoken at different decibels to determine the “speech reception threshold (SRT.)” of the patient. The test begins at 0 dB, with 10 dB increases until the patient correctly identifies 50% of a set of two-syllable words.
The Pure Tone Audiometric Test is conducted in a sound-isolated environment, where the patient listens to pure tones starting at 0 dB and is increased in 10 dB steps until there is a response. The test is attempting to identify the quietest sounds the patient can hear.
Neither test is administered with the use of hearing assistive devices, such as hearing aids or cochlear implants, to gain a better gauge of the hearing damage the patient has incurred.
In addition to these tests, the VA requires all patients to be examined for signs of “middle-ear disease” and ensure that the ear canal is not being obstructed in any way that may affect the results of the tests.
Does the VA Cover Hearing Aid Expenses?
If the audiologist has determined there is sufficient hearing loss to qualify for hearing aids, all costs will be covered by the VA as long as you remain an enrolled member.
This includes battery replacements, accessories such as domes, wax guards, cleaning supplies, and drying products in case your hearing aids get damaged by water.
It is important to note that if you are experiencing hearing-related issues you should report them as soon as possible, and in detail, regarding how often and severe, the issues have become, as well as the origins of your hearing damage if known.
If you are suffering from hearing-related issues while still active in the military, you should let a medical professional know when symptoms occur.
Do not wait until you are inactive and begin the process of enrollment for the Veterans Affairs if symptoms occur earlier.
What Brands Does the VA Offer?
The VA has contracts with several hearing aid manufacturers including GN ReSound, Phonak, Starkey, Widex, Oticon, and Siemens.
There is a wide range of options available to hearing disabled veterans, ranging from discreet “no-show” hearing aids, which sit in the hearing canal, to the larger and stronger Behind the Ear (BTE) options which provide maximum assistance.
Two times a year the VA also updates their contracts with these companies to ensure that they are offering the most advanced hearing aids available to veterans.
After Testing and Approval, How Do I Receive My Hearing Aids?
If after the testing phase you are determined to have hearing damage or loss and are therefore qualified to receive VA covered hearing aids.
The hearing aids themselves will be ordered by your VA audiologist through the Remote Order Entry System. For replacement batteries and accessories you have three options.
Through the mail: You can fill out a Veteran’s Request for Batteries and Accessories (VA Form 2346A) card and mail it to your local VA Logistics Center.
Over the phone: You can search online through the VA website to find the VA Logistics Center closest to you and call them Monday through Friday to place an order.
Order Online: You can order hearing aid batteries and accessories online, but only if you have ordered similar items online during the last two years. Check with your audiologist on how to sign up for a premium account and begin the online order process with https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/.
The typical wait to receive your hearing aids and accessories is 7 to 10 days. They will be delivered with batteries that typically last 6 months; however, it is important to order replacement batteries before they are necessary, usually 30 days before the expected life of the current batteries.
What if my hearing aids aren’t functioning Properly?
If you begin to experience issues with any of the equipment issued to you by the VA, the first thing you should do is contact the Audiology and Speech Pathology Clinic that conducted your hearing exams and ask for assistance.
If there does appear to be damage to your devices you can ship your defective hearing aids or equipment back into a Logistics Center recommended by your audiologist.
The Bottom Line
Hearing damage or loss can come from a variety of sources throughout a career in the military and shouldn’t be ignored if it is affecting your everyday life.
The VA wants to make sure that the veterans of this country are taken care of and have the highest quality of life available to them.
If you are experiencing hearing issues related to your time in service, contact your local VA health facility today and begin the process to a better bill of health.