It’s not a secret that countless U.S. veterans suffer from hearing loss as a result of their time in the military. In fact, hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) are the two most common military service-connected disabilities – and that’s why many veterans can receive free, VA-sponsored hearing aids.
However, just because you’re an ex-service member does not mean that you automatically qualify for hearing aid benefits. There are countless veterans with hearing loss – if not the majority of them – who don’t meet the criteria for VA hearing aids. So, what’s the story? Who qualifies for VA hearing aids, how do you get them when you qualify, and what are your options when you don’t qualify?
Below, we answer all of these questions – and tell you everything you wanted to know about VA hearing aids. But first, let’s take a look at the undeniable connection between military service and hearing loss.
The Connection Between Military Service and Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is one of the most common service-connected medical conditions – taking second place after tinnitus (ringing in the ears). This connection between military service and hearing loss can be seen in the following CDC statistics:
- 79.9% of male veterans have “excellent or good hearing” compared to 84% of male nonveterans.
- 23.2% of male veterans have “a little or moderate trouble” hearing compared to 13.6% of male nonveterans .
- 3.9% of male veterans have “a lot of hearing difficulty or are deaf” compared to 2.4% of male nonveterans.
- 18% of male veterans between the ages of 18-44 have moderate hearing trouble compared to 5.3% of male nonveterans of the same ages.
- Male veterans between the ages of 45-64 and 65-74 also showed an increased likelihood of suffering from moderate hearing trouble compared to male nonveterans.
- A separate study found that veterans with combat experience have a 63% increased risk of hearing loss.
In addition to these figures, the former president of the Association of Veterans Administration Audiologists, Scott C. Forbes, calls hearing injury "the signature injury" among post 9-11 veterans. The tragedy of these statistics is that hearing loss goes hand-in-hand with military service. The light at the end of the tunnel is that some service members with hearing health challenges can qualify for free VA hearing aids.
Do I Qualify for VA Hearing Aids?
Being a veteran with hearing loss doesn’t automatically qualify you to receive free VA hearing aids. However, if you’re a veteran who meets one or more of the following criteria, you might be able to get the hearing aids you need without paying a dime:
- You have a service-connected disability: This means that you suffer from a disability caused by or connected to your military service.
- You are a former prisoner of war: According to the VA, “former prisoners of war (POW) are veterans who, during active military service, were forcibly detained or interned in the line of duty by an enemy government or its agents or a hostile force.”
- You are a Purple Heart recipient: The Purple Heart is a military award given under the President’s name to service members who suffer injury or death during U.S. military service.
- You have a rating of “permanently housebound”: A veteran is “permanently housebound” when he or she is indefinitely unable to leave the home as a result of a service-connected medical problem. You can also qualify for VA hearing aids if you have a rating of “in need of regular aid and attendance.”
- Your hearing loss results from a qualifying condition: This is when your hearing loss stems from a medical condition that already qualifies you for VA medical or disability benefits.
- Your hearing loss inhibits your medical care or daily living: This means that your hearing loss is so severe that you can’t actively participate in your medical treatment and/or daily living pursuits.
How to Apply for VA Hearing Aids
Meeting one of the above criteria for VA hearing aids is only part of the battle. Next, you have to go through the process of getting approved for hearing aid benefits. This involves dealing with two different VA departments:
- The Veterans Health Administration (VHA): Provides medical services to diagnose your hearing condition and prescribe hearing aids; and
- The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA): Approves the benefits to pay for your hearing aids.
Many service members can navigate the VHA and VBA and get their free hearing aids without serious difficulty. However, other veterans meet so many denials and delays that they eventually give up on their VA-sponsored hearing aids. If you think you qualify for hearing aids based on what you’ve read so far – and you’re ready to embark on this process – here are the steps you’ll need to take:
Confirm your eligibility: The process of navigating the VHA and VBA can be confusing. It can also be time-consuming, involve multiple medical appointments, and a lot of paperwork. Therefore, you may want to speak with an audiologist, get your hearing tested to confirm you suffer from hearing loss, and thoroughly review the hearing aid benefits information on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website before proceeding.
Submit your VA Health Benefits application: Filling out the VA health benefits application on the internet by clicking this link is the easiest and fastest way to apply for benefits. You can also print, fill out, and mail the 10-10EZ VA benefits application by clicking this link. You can also apply by calling the VHA at 1-877-222-Vets.
Contact the National Veterans Association if you need help: Remember that the National Veterans Association will help you for free. If you have any questions or need assistance during the process of applying for or receiving VA hearing aid benefits, the NVA can help.
Identify your VHA location: Before visiting a VHA location for medical services, you need to identify your assigned facility. If you don’t already know your assigned facility, contact the VA Enrollment Coordinator at your local VA facility, or call the VA at 1-877-222-VETS (8387) for more information.
Schedule your VHA audiology appointment: You’ll want to ask for a VHA audiology appointment. You can do this when you apply for benefits, by contacting your local VA facility, or by scheduling through your local facility’s web-based scheduling interface.
Contact the VBA for benefits approval: You have to contact the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) to get approved for hearing loss benefits to pay for your hearing aids. Click here to access the VBA website for contact information.
Hope for the best! The process of getting your VA hearing aids could take more than a month – but we have seen cases where veterans had to wait one to two years before they received their hearing aids. Be patient and hope for the best. If you fail, you’ve only lost a bit of time – and you can always purchase an affordable, high-quality set of hearing aids yourself (see the next section for affordable hearing aid options).
What If You Don’t Qualify? An Affordable VA Hearing Aid Alternative
The requirements for VA hearing aids allow a significant number of U.S. veterans to qualify for free VA-sponsored hearing aids, but not all veterans. When the VA won’t provide you with hearing aids, you may want to contact the National Veterans Association for information, advice, and assistance – or reach out to a Veterans Affairs attorney.
That being said, a VA hearing aid denial may not be as bad as you think. Even veterans who do qualify for VA hearing aids often choose to purchase their own hearing aids for the following reasons:
- They don’t want to go through the hassle of dealing with the VA, applying for benefits, going to medical appointments, and potentially still getting denied.
- They don’t want to wait weeks or over a month to get their free VA hearing aids.
- They don’t like the VA hearing aid options, and they prefer to pay for a different style or brand.
- They can’t endure the long wait time for VA hearing aid repairs. All VA hearing aid repairs go to a central office, and the process of fixing broken hearing aids can take weeks or more than a month. To avoid being without hearing aids for over a month, many patients buy their own hearing aids privately or they purchase back-up hearing aids.
If you’re currently exploring alternatives to VA hearing aids, you might want to consider the affordable, high-quality options from MDHearing. MDHearing designs, manufactures, and sells FDA-registered hearing aids with advanced, digital technology, shipped directly to your door. No doctor visits required. No hearing tests required. No VA benefits applications required!
At MDHearing, we’re proud to offer affordable hearing care options to U.S. Veterans who can’t qualify for VA hearing care benefits. Here’s what U.S. veterans have said about MDHearing products:
I really enjoy these hearing aids. I was glad to find such an affordable style since the VA won't help me. They say the batteries last 4-8 days, but you can extend that a little longer by taking the battery out every night when you're done using them.” — Blake Y., March 2018
These were purchased for my husband (who does not do computers) and who has had VA hearing aids for about 3 years. He worked with a local ear/nose/throat doctor’s office through the VA system and at first, was very satisfied. That is, until VA decided to change methods and when one malfunctioned, we were told that we had to send it to VA and that it would take 4-6 weeks to be returned. We then decided to try the offer we received from MD and have been pleasantly satisfied. They work just as well, if not better than the expensive ones and we have already given the info to friends to try them.” — Diane of Arizona, January 2020
Can’t decide which MDHearing product is right for you? Our FDA-registered hearing aids are priced as low as 299/pair on the MDHearing website:
Not only do MDHearing products offer a highly affordable price point to veterans, but they also come with a 100% money-back satisfaction guarantee. If you order an MDHearing product that isn’t the best match for your needs, return it to us for a full refund!
See if MDHearing will work for you with our free, quick, and easy online hearing test.
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