As of 10/1/2017, this manual has been retired. For current policies, procedures, and standards for the Texas Workforce Commission Vocational Rehabilitation Division, please refer to the following manuals:

In this manual, references to DARS now refer to TWC. The manual includes both links to public content and links to content available only to staff.

Chapter 6: Hearing Aids and Related Accessories

(Revised 09/07, 09/15, 03/25/16)

6.1 Overview

The standards in this chapter apply to the purchase in whole or in part of hearing aids and related accessories by the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) for consumers that have been determined eligible for vocational rehabilitation services. As applicable, refer to the requirements in Chapter 1: Basic Standards regarding Contractor performance and compliance.

DARS can authorize the purchase of rehabilitation technology, such as hearing aids and other forms of rehabilitation technology, when it is expected to improve the consumer's ability to participate in vocational rehabilitation services that are required to obtain, maintain, advance in, or regain employment as defined in the consumer's individual plan for employment (IPE) (CFR 361.5(b)(45)).

DARS purchases hearing aids only from contracted manufacturers.

6.2 Key Terms

Accessories (for hearing aids) are useful add-ons to link to a hearing aid to assist in hearing more clearly in challenging situations. Examples of accessories include Bluetooth devices and frequency modulation (FM) systems. (Cosmetic accessories are not purchased by DARS.)

Analog Hearing Aids convert sound waves into electrical signals, which are amplified. Analog hearing aids are custom built to meet the needs of each user. The aid is programmed by the manufacturer according to the specifications recommended by an audiologist. Analog hearing aids have more than one program or setting and can be adjusted as needed. An audiologist can program the aid using a computer, and individuals can change the program for different listening environments (for example, a small, quiet room; a crowded restaurant; and large, open areas, such as a theater or stadium). Analog and/or programmable circuitry can be used in all types of hearing aids.

Behind-the-ear (BTE) Hearing Aids consist of a hard plastic case worn behind the ear that is connected to a plastic ear mold that fits inside the outer ear. The electronic parts are held in the case behind the ear. Sound travels from the hearing aid through the ear mold and into the ear.

Bone-anchored Hearing Aids (BAHA) are small devices that attach to the bone behind the ear. The device transmits sound vibrations directly to the inner ear through the skull, bypassing the middle ear. BAHAs are generally used by individuals with middle ear problems or deafness in one ear. The BAHA strengthens sound vibrations entering the inner ear so that they can be detected by individuals with sensorineural hearing loss. Surgery is required to implant BAHA devices. Special consideration must be given by the consumer and by the medical team to determine whether the potential benefits outweigh the potential risks.

Canal Hearing Aids fit into the ear canal and are available in two styles. The in-the-canal (ITC) hearing aid is made to fit the size and shape of a person's ear canal. A completely-in-canal (CIC) hearing aid is nearly hidden in the ear canal. Both types are used for mild to moderately severe hearing loss. Because they are small, canal aids can be difficult for a person to adjust and remove. In addition, canal aids have less space available for batteries and additional devices, such as a telecoil. Canal hearing aids are not recommended for young children or for people with severe to profound hearing loss because their reduced size limits their power and volume.

Contractor is a hearing aid manufacturer contracted with the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) or a successor agency to provide hearing aids and accessories.

Contralateral Routing of Signals (CROS) Hearing Aids treat unilateral hearing loss. The device takes sound from the ear with poorer hearing and transmits the sound to the ear with better hearing. Most systems are wireless and are either behind the ear or custom built in the ear. These wireless systems have replaced earlier wired units that were unreliable and bulky. These aids can be incorporated into eyeglasses. Transcranial CROS systems use the conductivity of the skull to transmit sound.

Digital Hearing Aids convert sound waves into numerical codes, similar to the binary code of a computer, before amplifying them. Because the code includes information about a sound's pitch or loudness, the aid can be specially programmed to amplify some frequencies more than others. Digital circuitry gives an audiologist more flexibility in adjusting the aid to a user's needs and to certain listening environments. These aids also can be programmed to focus on sounds coming from a specific direction. Digital circuitry can be used in all types of hearing aids.

In-the-ear (ITE) Hearing Aids fit completely inside the outer ear and are used for mild to severe hearing loss. The case holding the electronic components is made of hard plastic. ITE aids can have added features installed, such as a telecoil.

Letter of Specification is a document provided by the Contractor that includes a detailed description of the exact product to be provided, including the Manufacturer's Lowest List Price, cost of the product, and the date by which the product will be delivered. The description of the product must include the brand name and model number of the device, type of hearing aid, special features of the aid, quantity of hearing aids to be purchased and the amount of the service charge. The letter of specification is not a bid.

Manufacturer's Lowest List Price is the manufacturer's product price list that is below the manufacturer's suggested retail price and that includes the least amount of mark-up or margin above the actual production cost.

Middle Ear Implant (MEI) is a small device attached to one of the bones of the middle ear. Rather than amplifying the sound traveling to the eardrum, an MEI moves these bones directly. The MEI strengthens sound vibrations entering the inner ear so that they can be detected by individuals with sensorineural hearing loss. Surgery is required to implant MEI devices. Special consideration must be given by the consumer and by the medical team to determine whether or not the potential benefits outweigh the potential risks.

Open-fit Hearing Aids fit completely behind the ear, with only a narrow tube inserted into the ear canal, enabling the canal to remain open. They are often used for people who experience a buildup of earwax, since this type of aid is less likely to be damaged by such substances. Some people may also prefer the open-fit hearing aid because their perception of their own voice is less distorted.

Post-fitting Evaluation is a report of hearing aid performance and consumer satisfaction.

Service Charge is the usual and customary charge (not to exceed Maximum Affordable Payment Schedule (MAPS)) that covers the initial fitting (including activation of a telecoil) and up to four follow-up visits. Follow-up visits must include any necessary adjustments to the hearing aids, the post-fitting evaluation, and instructions in the care and use of the hearing aids.

Telecoil is a small magnetic coil that allows users to receive sound through the circuitry of the hearing aid, rather than through its microphone. This makes it easier to hear conversations over the telephone. A telecoil also helps people hear in public facilities that have installed special sound systems, called induction loop systems. These systems can be found in many churches, schools, airports, and auditoriums.

6.3 Manufacturer and Hearing Aid Dispensing Staff Qualifications

DARS purchases hearing aids only from a Contractor.

Individuals who provide and bill for services associated with the purchase of hearing aids and related accessories must meet the qualifications and licensing requirements of the Texas Department of State Health Services, which is the designated regulatory authority for audiologists and hearing aid specialists.

Job Title

Job Function

Required Qualifications

Audiologist

Provides audiological examinations.

May dispense hearing aids.

May provide basic audiometric assessments.

Licensed by the State Board of Examiners for Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology.

To dispense hearing aids, the audiologist also must be licensed by the State Committee of Examiners in the Fitting and Dispensing of Hearing Instruments.

Hearing aid specialist

Dispenses hearing aids.

May provide basic audiometric assessments (MAPS 92551-92559).

May provide hearing aid evaluations.

Must comply with all provisions of:

Texas Administrative Code, Title 22, Examining Boards, Part 7, State Committee of Examiners in the Fitting and Dispensing Of Hearing Instruments Chapter 141, Licensure and Regulation of Hearing Instrument Fitters and Dispensers

The hearing aid dispenser or audiologist must submit a Letter of Specification to DARS before a service authorization will be issued.

6.4 Condition of Goods and Services

Upon receipt and acceptance of a DARS service authorization, the Contractor and the hearing aid dispensing staff agree to:

The hearing aid dispenser and or audiologist will provide operation and maintenance instructions to the consumer.

6.5 Fees

The following established discounts apply to the purchase of all hearing aids and accessories:

The post-fitting evaluation report must include a written statement from the hearing aid dispensing staff, which states that the consumer has received the device and is satisfied with its performance. This statement must be signed by the consumer.

Upon receipt of a post-fitting evaluation report, DARS pays the hearing-aid dispenser for the services provided to the consumer. DARS or a successor agency must receive the post-fitting evaluation report within 30 days of the consumer's receipt of the hearing aid.

6.6 Additional Invoicing Requirements

The invoice must comply with the requirements of Chapter 1: Basic Standards, and must include:

A copy of the manufacturer's price list or order form must be attached to the invoice.

6.7 Returned Goods and Equipment

Hearing aid dispensing staff

The hearing aid dispensing staff that dispensed the goods or equipment to the consumer must provide DARS with written notice to the DARS office that issued the service authorization when any goods or equipment purchased with DARS funds are being returned to the manufacturer.

This notice must include:

Contractors

Contractors must provide the DARS or a successor agency office that issued the service authorization with a written notice of all goods or equipment purchased with DARS or a successor agency funds that are subsequently returned to, exchanged, or replaced by the Contractor.

This notice must include:

By the 15th of each month, the Contractor must remit to DARS a check in the amount of the total credit accumulated during the prior calendar month. This payment must be accompanied by supporting documentation and/or credit invoices for each transaction or item for which the credit reimbursement is issued. The supporting documentation and/or credit invoices supplied must include the service authorization number and the consumer case ID number.