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The Issue

Hearing loss and tinnitus are the two most common disabilities for Veterans.  The effect of severe hearing loss or tinnitus can be extremely damaging to a Veteran’s health and quality of life.  There are numerous social and physical problems that are created by this disability, such as isolation, psychological stress, dizziness, fatigue and depression.  Hearing loss and tinnitus can also make it difficult to communicate with friends and family as well as maintain a career.  These problems can be helped if Veterans are able to access proper hearing healthcare.  However, because of increasing demand and limited capacity, the VA is simply unable to provide the proper care for our Veterans.

Wait LineVeterans with service-connected disabilities or who meet eligibility requirements have access to free hearing healthcare through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  In order to obtain a hearing evaluation or hearing aid services, a Veteran must travel to a VA clinic or VA-contracted audiologist, with rare exception.  However, because of long wait times, limited follow-up service, and significant travel distances, Veterans are often unable to receive the proper care they need.  By integrating hearing aid specialists into the VA health system, we can drastically reduce the burden on Veterans to receive proper care while simultaneously increasing their quality of life.

Visit our Testimonials page to read about real-life experiences of Veterans trying to access care. 

The limiting policies and regulations of the VA restrict its ability to hire and contract with hearing aid specialists to help fill the need for hearing aid services.  Veterans are well-served through the team-based approach; however, the current model disregards one of the three hearing healthcare team members, comprised of ENTs, audiologists, and hearing aid specialists.  By incorporating hearing aid specialists into the VA health system, we can create efficiencies, improve outcomes, and increase access to care for our Veterans.

The VA's continued reliance on only audiologists for hearing aid services, in addition to hearing disibility evaluations, is likely to exacerbate the access issue further as the field is losing more providers each year than gaining and has a projected shortage. 

In fact, studies show that audiologists are leaving the field at an alarming rate – student dropout is 33%, attrition rate for 41-50 year olds is 41%, and 44% question their career choice. 

The VA is also increasing utilization of audiology health technicians, a generally unregulated and unlicensed class outside the VA, whom VA audiologists must train and actively supervise.
While the hard working men and women of the VA are no doubt doing their best, it is clear that the volume of Veterans in need is continuing to exceed the VA’s ability to provide much-needed hearing healthcare.

1)   Give the VA the ability to hire hearing aid specialists to serve Veterans at their local VA facilities

2)   Lift existing VA restrictions on the fee-for-service policy so that local VA clinics can contract with hearing aid specialists, and Veterans can access care in their local communities.

There are currently over 9,000 licensed hearing aid specialists who are ready to provide Veterans across the U.S. with hearing aid services, including:
  • Hearing testing
  • Determining candidacy for hearing aids
  • Providing hearing aid recommendations
  • Performing fittings, adjustments and repairs
  • Taking ear impressions for ear molds
  • Providing counseling and aural rehabilitation 
There are 800-1000 hearing aid specialists entering the field annually.  The growing numbers of hearing aid specialists in the field will offset the diminishing number of available audiologists, securing proper service and access for our Veterans in the future.  Further, hearing aid specialists are often located in rural areas and do home and nursing home visits, bringing the care closer to our Veterans.

Hearing aid specialists are licensed and educated professionals who, on average, have achieved:
  • 1-2 year apprenticeship training period
  • 13-month distance learning course in hearing instrument sciences
  • Comprehensive written examination to test their knowledge and preparedness
  • Practical examination to test clinical competency
  • Test of state and federal laws related to the fitting and sale of hearing aids
 By allowing hearing aid specialists to help fill the need for hearing aid services, we can help relieve the workload of the VA’s audiologists.  As a result, Veterans should experience shorter wait times for appointments and have access to more follow-up care, while reducing the distance they must drive and improving the quality of care they receive.
 Sponsored by International Hearing Society, Livonia, Michigan
Contact us: or 734-522-7200