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Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids for Department of Defense Beneficiaries

Over-the-counter hearing aidThere’s a new category of over-the-counter hearing aids. In August 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a final rule that allows people to get their hearing needs met if their health insurance doesn’t pay for it. DOD beneficiaries tend to have better access to hearing health care than most. Here are a few things to consider.

Hearing Loss Signs & Symptoms

  • Feeling that speech is muffled or people are mumbling
  • Having difficulty understanding words, especially in background noise or in a crowd
  • Asking people to repeat what they said
  • Trouble following conversations in a group, in restaurants, or other noisy places
  • Turning up the volume on the television or radio to levels that bothers other people
  • Trouble understanding other people when you can’t see their faces
  • Straining to hear conversations and feeling frustrated
  • Avoiding some social settings because of any of the above issues

What are your options?

If you’re:

  • Over 18 years old
  • Have perceived mild to moderate hearing loss

Then, you can get OTC hearing aids. You can buy hearing aids directly from stores or online. You don’t need a:

  • Medical exam
  • Hearing test
  • Prescription
  • Audiology appointment

You can set up the device without seeing a health care provider. /p>

If you’re under 18 years old and have underlying ear problems that require a medical exam, you can’t get OTC hearing aids. You’ll need to get traditional or prescription hearing aids.

Traditional hearing aids aren’t available OTC. You’ll need to be seen by an audiologist to get prescription hearing aids. They’ll choose the right hearing aids for you and tailor it to your hearing loss and needs. If they notice any other issues that might require a medical exam, they’ll refer you to another provider.

How can I get a hearing aid?

As of October 2022, you can get OTC hearing aids:

  • From civilian audiology offices
  • In Stores
  • Online
  • Via mail order

You’ll pay out-of-pocket for your OTC hearing aids. Currently, TRICARE doesn’t cover OTC hearing aid devices.

If you’re an active duty service member and have TRICARE, you and your family have coverage for all hearing exams. If eligible, prescription hearing aids and audiology visits are covered. This means that you can get a prescription hearing aid at little to no cost if you have qualifying hearing loss.

If you’re a retired veteran who’s eligible for care in a military hospital or clinic, or a TRICARE-covered family member of a retiree, you may be able to get medical care and prescription hearing aids at a reduced cost at certain military medical clinics.

Things to Consider

  • Audiologists in military hospitals or clinics or the TRICARE network won’t be able to help you with OTC devices. This is due to lack of access to software or accessories.
  • With OTC hearing aids, manufacturers should provide you with information about:
    • Warranties
    • How to get repairs
    • How to contact them
  • You should not wear hearing aids in a hazardous noise environment or when working with loud equipment.
  • For service members, readiness is a priority. An audiologist can help you choose a hearing aid that’s right for your mission. See Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, Policy 12-002 for more information.

If you think you might have hearing loss, we recommend you see an audiologist to have your hearing checked and to make sure you don’t have any underlying problems. With their help, you can decide which path is best for your hearing needs.

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Feb 21, 2012

Memorandum: #HA Policy 12-002, Use of Supplemental Health Care Program Funds for Non-Covered TRICARE Health Care Services and the Waiver Process for Active Duty Service Members

.PDF | 1.37 MB

As specified in Reference (a) and implemented in Reference (b), members of the Uniformed Services are entitled to medical and dental care in military treatment facilities and also in private facilities (purchased care) using Supplemental Health Care Program funds.

  • Identification #: HA Policy 12-002
  • Type: Memorandum
Last Updated: August 01, 2023
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