Hi guys. Rachael Cook, Doctor of Audiology at Applied Hearing Solutions in Phoenix, Arizona, and in this video I'll be telling you all of the details about VA hearing aids coming up.
If you served in our nation's military, then you know that there may be healthcare benefits available to you through Veterans Affairs, but the VA system is notoriously confusing, leaving many service members unsure if they qualify for these healthcare benefits and what exactly they include. As an audiologist, I'm often asked what healthcare benefits are available for veterans with hearing loss or tinnitus, but the most common question that I'm asked is what hearing aids does the VA even have? Well, I was fortunate enough to spend my fourth and final year of my doctoral program as a clinical extern within the VA system, so I've got answers, but before we do that, please give this video a thumbs up to bring videos like these to a wider audience. And while you're at it, if you have not yet already hit the subscribe button with notification Bell, be sure you do that as well so that you never miss anyone of our newly released videos.
I really appreciate it. Now let's start off by reviewing who is eligible for hearing aids at the VA? In general, service members with two or more years of active duty with diagnosed hearing loss or tinnitus are eligible for hearing aids at no cost. Better yet, this hearing loss does not have to be a direct result of your time in service for you to still pursue hearing treatment through the va. This will however require that you establish care with the Veteran Health Administration before you can receive any hearing services. For more information on applying for health benefits through the va, check out vets.gov or contact your local VA clinic to get set up with a veteran services officer that can help you navigate this process. Service members that were dishonorably discharged or that served in the National Guards or reserves but we're not activated, may not be eligible for benefits.
Additionally, if your income is too high, it may disqualify you from receiving full coverage for your treatment. However, the rules around this can be pretty tricky, so if you're still wondering if you're eligible for benefits or not, I do recommend completing the application and submitting it to the VA to get a definitive answer. After determining if you're eligible, you may be wondering how to get started. The process of getting hearing aids is easy and begins by scheduling an appointment with the audiology department at your local VA center. All VA medical services, including hearing treatment, are administered by the Veteran Health Administration or VHA. This is very different from veteran benefits and compensation that is handled by the Veterans Benefits Administration or VBA. To be clear, your appointment with the VHA is for the diagnosis of hearing loss in tinnitus in order to get hearing aids.
This has nothing to do with establishing service connection or receiving any sort of financial compensation for hearing loss or tinnitus that may have been caused by your time in the service. Compensation and benefits. Evaluations often referred to as c and p evaluations cannot be completed by VA audiologists and are scheduled and administered through the Veterans Benefits Administration. At your initial appointment, an audiologist will complete a comprehensive Audi ideological evaluation, and depending on the results, may recommend hearing aids. There is then a discussion about communication needs, personal preferences, and any physical limitations like dexterity or vision loss, so they can then make the best recommendation for you. Regarding the type and brand of hearing aid. It's important to note that because hearing treatment is highly individualized, you will not be leaving with hearing aids the same day as the devices will need to be ordered from the manufacturer.
This will require a separate hearing aid fitting appointment where your VA audiologist will program your hearing aids and teach you how to use and maintain them. This leads to my most frequently asked question, which is what brands of hearing aids does the VA have at the moment? The VA has a contract with five of the six largest hearing aid manufacturers, including Phonak, Oticon, Starkey, Sigina, and Resound. Within these manufacturers, VA audiologists can order nearly any make or model of hearing aid, so long as it is on contract, meaning in agreement has been made between the VA and the manufacturer to order and dispense these devices. These contracts are renewed every six months, meaning that access to the latest and greatest technology is at most six months behind private practice audiology clinics. This technology includes nearly all styles of hearing aids as well as those that take disposable or rechargeable batteries and hearing aids with Bluetooth pairing capabilities.
And while the private sector has varying levels of hearing aid technology, the VA only dispenses premium level technology, meaning that your provider has access to the full spectrum of features and customizations available within each device. For instance, the Phonak Audeo Lumity hearing aids come in the top tier 90 level and go all the way down to the bottom tier 30 level. At the VA, they will only dispense the top tier 90 level. These devices come with a three year warranty for repairs as well as a one-time replacement for any significant damage or loss. And veterans are eligible for new hearing aids every three years, and in the event that hearing aids are not able to fully meet your needs, your provider is also able to order compatible assistive listening devices such as remote microphone systems to maximize your hearing aid performance, particularly in background noise.
Many VA clinics also have cochlear implant programs for individuals with severe to profound hearing loss. The VA also created and follows the progressive tinnitus management protocol to help veterans who are suffering with bothersome tinnitus after the initial hearing aid fitting is complete. Each VA clinic handles the follow-up process differently, but generally results in several one-on-one or group follow-up sessions. These follow-up appointments are critical in ensuring that you are confident in the use and care of your devices, as well as monitoring your performance and treatment outcomes over time. If your VA does not offer prescheduled follow-up appointments after your initial hearing aid fitting, you should request at least one and go back as many times as needed to ensure that you're maximizing your hearing performance. From there. Many VA systems have walk-in clinics if your hearing aids are in need of repair or if you just have some troubleshooting concerns.
These services are often performed by health technicians, so you may not always see an audiologist for these visits. One of the best things about getting hearing aids at the VA is that so long as you are eligible, premium hearing aids and accessories of nearly all styles and with all features are available to you if you receive other health services at the va. Audiologists also have access to your medical records and medication lists, allowing them to have a complete picture of your health status, which can also direct their treatment recommendations. In addition to hearing tinnitus treatment, many audiology clinics also have the ability to diagnose balance conditions and if anything falls outside of their scope. In-house referrals to other specialties such as ear, nose, and throat physicians are relatively easy to facilitate in the event that your clinic does not have the services that you need locally or they are unable to see you in a timely manner.
The VA can also refer you to approved outside providers through their community care program. Another great thing about the VA is that they only dispense unlocked hearing aids, which means that you can take these hearing aids anywhere including a private practice audiology clinic, and that is extremely important because as great as the VHA is to our nation's veterans, there are also some downsides to obtaining hearing aids through the VA. One downside of obtaining treatment through the VA is that wait times for appointments can be pretty lengthy, especially after covid changed many rules and regulations. Depending on the amount of providers or health techs at each site, it may span weeks or months between appointments, which can be a real problem if you have an urgent concern. And in the event of a hearing aid problem requiring a trip to the manufacturer, this repair must be completed by a VA or approved provider and cannot be completed by a non-contracted provider.
Another disadvantage of getting your hearing aids through the VA is that each VA system operates under its own distinct clinical protocols, meaning you may receive comprehensive best practice audiologic care at one VA clinic and not at another VA clinic. For this reason, if you feel like you aren't getting the benefit from hearing aids that you were looking for, consider scheduling a consultation with an audiologist that follows best practices to see if there are ways that your hearing treatment can be optimized. And if you don't know what best practices are, I'll attach a video here so that you can learn more about them because they can definitely make or break your hearing aid treatment success overall. So long as you are eligible for VA services and a candidate for hearing aids, the VA can provide high quality hearing aids and their compatible accessories at no cost to you.
And if you want to locate a provider that follows best practices, be sure to visit hearing up.com for a map of approved providers near you, as some of them may even be approved community care providers, the positives of obtaining hearing aids through the VA certainly outweigh the negatives. And as is true with any medical condition, you should absolutely seek treatment for it early for the best possible outcomes. Even if you are uncertain about pursuing hearing treatment, there is no harm in getting a baseline hearing test to monitor your hearing over time. So if you're a veteran, get ahold of your local VA and schedule a hearing test today, you've earned it. That's it for this video. If you liked it, go ahead and give it a thumbs up and share it with someone that you feel could use it. And if you haven't already, be sure to subscribe to our channel so you never miss anyone of our newly released videos.
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