The US shows great concern for the health of its veterans, and offers a number of benefits to ensure their wellbeing. There are 170 VA Medical Centers situated across the country, all of which are equipped to supply top-of-the-line healthcare exclusively to veterans.
If you are a veteran, or in some cases related to a veteran, you may be eligible for a free hearing aid or other hearing technology. In this article, we’ll go over who’s eligible to receive hearing aids, and what that process would look like.
If you’ve served in the past, and are unsure if you qualify for hearing aids, you’ll probably already know what to do. Head down to your nearest VA Medical Center, and inquire about any claims that you can make for hearing loss.
Military hearing healthcare
So before you read the whole article, it’d be worth knowing if you’re considered part of the system of people who can receive VA Health Benefits. This system includes:
- US veterans that served in the active military, naval, or air service, and were separated under any condition besides dishonorable
- returning service members, or active duty service members who are separating or retiring
- family members of a veteran (special circumstances)
- former members of the armed forces of a nation who fought as an ally with the United States during WWII
As described in the VA’s 2014 directive, there are some veterans who take precedence over others, like former POW's, or those who have received special honors.
If you fall under any of these classifications, you’re more than likely able to receive medical attention at any VA center. After receiving a hearing test, the VA audiologist will be able to assess the kind of hearing aid you require, and explain how you’d receive it.
VA hearing aid benefits
It’s easy to look at free things and assume a very low level of quality. Free samples are always tiny, free trials of services always have bare-bones features, and if someone offers you something for free, you would always think there was a catch.
This does not apply to VA healthcare, however. Any healthcare offered to veterans is exclusively top of the line, and hearing aids are no exception. The Veterans Health Administration has frequently updated contracts with the biggest hearing aid manufacturers, which means that VA Centers – and the veterans they serve – are given the most current hearing technology.
As shown in this study conducted by the VA, the VA’s hearing aid circuitry is on par with the best hearing aids on the market, meaning you won’t be snubbed out of good quality hearing aids in favor of cheap alternatives.
What is the military hearing test like?
The process is surprisingly simple. First, you must complete a preliminary application process. If you’re found to be a suitable fit for free hearing technology, you’ll be directed to your nearest VA Healthcare Center.
After a simple assessment conducted by an audiologist, you’ll work together to choose the best hearing aid/s for your lifestyle. Once you receive them – usually at a second consultation, as in the meantime they need to be built specifically for you – you’ll be able to return to the clinic at any time for service or repairs.
Almost! The one downside is that it can take a little bit longer to receive military hearing aids than it takes to receive hearing aids through civilian channels. Depending on the demands placed on the particular VA Health Center, it can take anywhere between 2 weeks and 6 months.
This wait is unfortunate, but unavoidable, as it’s simply a matter of first come first serve. This is, however, the only major downside of this process. Like we said before, any hearing technology acquired through VA services is going to be top of the line, and offer you very few problems.
Don’t just listen to us!
If you’re still wondering about the whole situation, or unsure whether you could even benefit from hearing aids, the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) recently interviewed a veteran who received hearing aids through VA healthcare.
They asked Ronald Brumfield, a Navy veteran who suffered a ruptured eardrum during service, what he thought about his hearing aids. He responded: “I was in denial. My father was a veteran and he wore these big hearing aids, and I didn’t want those. But it eventually got to the point where every time someone said something, I was saying, ‘What?’”
Once he did finally get his hearing aids through the VA Health Services, Brumfield was happier than ever: “They’re really small, so often people don’t even notice them,” he says. “They hook into my TV so I can listen wirelessly. And they also work with my iPhone, so if I use Google Maps when I’m driving, I can hear the directions in my ear. They really are amazing.”
Other things to know
Here are some other little tidbits that are worth knowing if you’re interested in getting hearing aids through VA services:
- You’re given a very generous six-month trial to see if your life is improved by your hearing aid
- Although the VA’s Choice Program has been cancelled, if you’re still enrolled in the program, the benefits can still extend to you in regards to your hearing
- The VA also offers treatment for tinnitus, a hearing condition that causes a constant ringing or buzzing in the sufferer’s ear
- Previously, veterans needed a referral from a general practitioner to see a VA audiologist, but that is no longer required, as eligibility can be confirmed online
The future of veterans’ hearing loss
As far as hearing healthcare is concerned, the future looks bright for American veterans. You’ll be offered the best, most recent hearing technology, with as many services as it needs to fit you perfectly.
We wish you the best of luck if you’re a veteran taking your first step toward better hearing healthcare. You’ll not only be helping yourself by improving your hearing and lifestyle, but you’ll also be helping others by reducing the stigma around hearing aids, and possibly encouraging others to begin their own pursuit of better hearing health.