Does TRICARE Cover Hearing Aids?
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TRICARE covers hearing aids and related services for active duty service members and their families who meet certain criteria for hearing loss, but it doesn’t cover hearing aids for retired service members and their families. Purchasing a typical pair of hearing aids can cost thousands of dollars and involves testing, consultation, fitting and other diagnostic procedures, so it’s advisable for eligible military personnel to take advantage of any available financial assistance.
How Is Hearing Loss Diagnosed?
Hearing loss is determined by a doctor’s diagnosis. For TRICARE coverage, patients must meet specific hearing loss criteria:
- Adults: Hearing threshold of at least 40 dB hearing loss in one or both ears when tested at frequencies of 500, 1,000, 1,500, 2,000, 3,000 or 4,000Hz; hearing threshold of at least 26 dB hearing loss in one or both ears for any three or more of the previous frequencies; or a speech recognition score lower than 94%.
- Children: Hearing threshold level of at least 26dB HL in one or both ears when tested at frequencies of 500, 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 or 4,000Hz.
Hearing loss commonly presents in two forms: high-frequency losses and flat losses. Symptoms of high-frequency hearing loss include ability to hear but not decipher normal speech, while flat hearing loss symptoms include decreased volume of common sounds or inability to hear at a distance.
Who Is Eligible for a TRICARE Plan?
The TRICARE health program provides assistance to a range of service members, including National Guard and reserve members, survivors, former spouses, family members of military personnel and others listed in the US Department of Defense’s service member database, the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). The types of benefits a service member (and eligible family) receives varies by beneficiary category.
What If I Don’t Qualify for TRICARE Hearing Aid Coverage?
Although TRICARE doesn’t offer hearing aid coverage for retired service members and their families, other government programs may be able to provide assistance, including the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Service members must register in person at a VA Medical Clinic, by mail or online, and they should prepare the following documents: a copy of their DD214, a valid driver’s license and, if applicable, current health insurance. After a veteran receives a clinical evaluation to confirm hearing loss, the VA can provide hearing aids, repairs, batteries and other accessories at no cost.
Another option is the Department of Defense’s Retiree-At-Cost Hearing Aid Program (RACHAP), which helps retired service members with hearing loss or tinnitus purchase hearing aids at reduced cost. However, not every audiology clinic provides this program, so it’s important to contact facilities beforehand to check availability.