VA reminding veterans to take advantage of audiology benefits

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Veterans have earned a wide range of healthcare benefits through their service, but many are leaving some of those benefits on the table.

The VA in Buffalo is working to reach veterans who could benefit from the audiological services offered there.

“It just opened up the world that I was missing,” said Navy veteran Michael Ray about getting a cochlear implant at the VA in Buffalo. “I’m hearing sounds I didn’t hear for a long time.”

Ray says he lost his hearing because of his service in the Navy, being exposed to constant loud noises in the engineering spaces.

But, he says he didn’t realize how much of his world he was missing, until he got his hearing back with a cochlear implant.

“When I first got it, I walked around asking my wife ‘What is that?’ and she would tell me, ‘Those are birds. You’re hearing birds again.'”

Ray says, at first, he was hesitant to go to the VA for this kind of care.

“You hear they’re bad, the VA is bad. It isn’t,” he said. “When I got here, I was just totally surprised.”

In fact, the Buffalo VA is the go-to place for cochlear implants for veterans from as far away as Albany.

“They travel from five to sometimes six, seven, eight hours away,” Audiologist Becky Thompson pointed out.

And the Buffalo VA offers a full spectrum of audiological care.

“The Buffalo VA hospital offers comprehensive audiological evaluations, vestibular assessments, tinnitus management, cochlear implant evaluations, hearing aid evaluations, dispensing of hearing aids, and tele-health services,” listed Joyce O’Brien, the Chief of Audiology Services.

Being able to get hearing aids at the VA is huge.

Many private insurance companies offer very little coverage for hearing aids, leaving some people to shell out thousands of dollars for base models. But veterans can get hearing aids through the VA for just a minimal copay, and they’re getting top-of-the-line products.

“The hearing aids – I was amazed when I first started working here. They’re the ones in the private sector that you’re playing $5,000 or $6,000 plus,” said Audiologist Dave Przynosch. “We only get premium aids from all different manufacturers.”

Navy veteran Andy MacVie showed our News 4 crew his premium hearing aids, pointing out how they connect to his phone via bluetooth so he can adjust the volume, take phone calls, or even listen to music.

Tthese are very high tech, and they’re comfortable, he said. “A lot of people don’t even know I’m wearing them.”

Audiological services are covered for all veterans who receive their healthcare through the VA, not just veterans who may have hearing loss related to their service.

The VA offers direct scheduling for audiology appointments. Call 716-862-6095.

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