BCBS and hearing aids/GEHA plans in open season

It’s open season for current and retired feds. BCBS Basic is shifting to $2500 towards aids every five instead of three years. They have a discount program for aids through something called TruHearing, but I get the impression these are second-tier products. The GEHA program for 2021 will do hearing aids every 3 years, but also seems to have the TruHearing connection.

My questions of those who have used TruHearing:

1: are these in fact downgraded models, just as Costco sells units that are a tad behind top-tier in technology? (For reference, I use Oticon OPNs 1s and have always tried to buy as much technology as I can as a hedge against the risk of hearing declining faster In between subsidized purchase opportunities.)

2: have you been satisfied with the products and service you have received?



Just looked at their site: Hearing Aid Catalog | TruHearing Hearing Aids
My impression is that they are the latest hearing aids as the list the Oticon Opn S1, Phonak Audeo P and the Resound One. I don’t think they could call them by those names if they were defeatured. I’d focus on the person fitting the hearing aids.

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There is a previous thread where some folks discussed their experience with Tru-Hearing. I had a good experience with Tru-Hearing: My experience with TruHearing and, as with anything in life, some other folks did not.

You basically get regular HA’s such as you might buy at a full-service package price at a discount for opting for more limited service. Officially, in the Tru-Hearing contract when I got mine about two years ago, it was only 3 additional follow-up visits beyond the initial fitting covered in the discounted purchase price. After that, you’d theoretically be paying a la carte but my audiologist has not charged me for any warranty-related visits and I’ve had at least half a dozen in the last two years (counting dropping off old device for audi to test, returning to be fit with new replacement, etc.).

So if you’ve worn HA’s before and you know that you need a lot of return visits to get things right, it might not be such a good idea. If you know after the first few tweaks that you’re probably going to be pretty happy with your fit and the audiologist says warranty issues, no problema!, you’re probably going to be satisfied with Tru-Hearing. Depending what’s the latest and the greatest when I decide to get new HA’s and what’s being offered at Costco, because I like my current audiologist and she says she can fit me with any HA that I want, I might very well use Tru-Hearing again. But as an old retiree, I’m probably not as exacting as a lot of folks who wear HA’s and lead busier lives with a lot of demanding business activities, phone calls, meetings and so on.

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I got my current Oticon Opn1’s thru BCBS Federal and TruHearing in 2016. It might take a few weeks after a brand-new model is released before it becomes available through TruHearing, but it is not like Costco which is almost always a generation behind.

When I talked to my audi this year about getting replacements he told me if I went through TruHearing again that he would have to charge full price for every visit after the three visits provided through TruHearing. Apparently the audi doesn’t make much profit working through TruHearing.

I am leaning toward going through TruHearing again anyway and just paying for the extra adjustment visits. It’s frustrating because sometimes an adjustment visit results in only a very small tweak that only takes a couple of minutes. But it’ll probably be less expensive over the life of the HAs.

I am dismayed to hear that BCBS Basic will now only pay that $2500 benefit every five years. I downgraded from Standard to Basic when I became eligible for Medicare. I guess we all end up paying more for fewer benefits every year.

Thanks for that prompt and thorough answer. I, too, downgraded to Basic when I picked up part B and I’m now looking at the GEHA product because it covers out-of-network doctors and still retains the $2500/three-year hearing aid coverage.

It’s good to know the TruHearing folks have current technology. I got my current OPN 1s in September of 2019. With the three-year replacement period, I had been planning on replacing them in 2022 just to stay as close as possible to cutting edge as I can. I’m not too worried about any extra charges. I previously had the top-end Costco product – a second tier Oticon offering – and it served me well, but I wanted to stay with the upper end product from here on out.

Again, thank you for that information.

Thanks. I use Oticon and in my brief scan of the TruHearing site via the BCBS 2021 federal retiree plan link I didn’t see it … and I was not familiar with the other brands since I’ve been using Oticon the last 20-25 years.

Tru Hearing has the latest hearing aids. They got Phonak Paradise maybe a month after they were released. I will be buying mine thru them at a significant savings using my BCBS insurance. Saving about $1800. . They do have a TruHearing brand of hearing aids. These are less expensive that the branded HAs. For example the Signia Xperience has a feature that is Assistant, but the Tru Hearing rebranded Signia Xperience does not. I know this from speaking w/ a HIS. Another thing that is nice is that TruHearing does all the paperwork for your insurance and there are also Affordable Payment option plans, no interest for 12 months.


Thanks so much for this thread! It’s super helpful to read more about TruHearing and their options, or lack thereof. I have BCBS Standard and have been looking to finally upgrade from what was Siemens Pure into a wireless HA that supports better connectivity to my mobile. Given that I’m now teleworking 100% of the time, it’s been a nightmare taking calls on Teams and WebEx where folks are using their computer audio. I’ve had to go into my audiologist for a couple of adjustments and moved into a tulip/closed dome. I definitely need to upgrade which is why I’m back on the forum. I guess that’s what a HSA is for? :laughing:

Whatever brand HA you decide to get, you might also want to get a streamer device for your PC. Just based on my TV streaming experience, I hear the dialog in streamed movies so much better when streamed directly to my HA’s than when picked up from the room speakers used with the TV because secondary reverberations, etc., from around the room are virtually eliminated.

The other thing that I’ve found out from listening to streamed podcasts walking around the neighborhood, mainly Ira Flatow’s Science Friday radio program, is that when a “tellecaller” into his program has a poor connection that’s awash in low-frequency “slurpy” voice noises that it helps to use the treble enhancement (“speech clarity”) features of my ReSound HA’s in the Smart 3D app - you can probably do the same in whatever brand you get. Specifically in the ReSound app, invoking that feature usually reduces bass by about -2 dB, enhances midtones by about +4 dB, and treble tones by +6 dB (if these changes make the overall sound volume of your HA’s too loud, you can just crank down overall volume on your HA’s a bit and you’ll still maintain the relative HA frequency volume changes). And in the Smart 3D app under the Sound Enhancement button you can increase or decrease each of these adjustments as much as you want. Making the adjustments usually makes the speaker you’re listening to sound much “tinnier” but for me at least reduces interfering low-frequency sounds in the caller’s poor connection and makes their speech much more intelligible.

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I second that recommendation if you get new aids.

A couple of other possible ideas for your Teams/WebEx issues:

1). If your current hearing aids have sufficient feedback prevention, closed headphones (or a closed headset with a microphone) with large ear cups that seal against your head might make hearing the computer audio easier. I have some old Beyerdynamic DT 770 pro headphones that work well with my Oticon OPN S 1 hearing aids. They block out much of the room noise and the hearing aids correct my losses so I can hear better that way than trying to listen to the computer speaker(s).

2). If you use an Apple iPhone, you might consider MFi hearing aids. If you also have an iPad that is another reason to consider MFi aids. I use an iPad for Zoom, Teams, and WebEx as there are apps for each and the OPN aids are MFi so connect directly to the iPad without a streamer. The iPad microphone is used. I can hear things well that way and the others seem to hear me fine. The one issue I have is the iPhone and iPad seem to contend for control of the aids so I turn the Bluetooth off on the device not in use to prevent issues. The recent iPad Pro models with USB-C can connect to a large USB-C connected monitor if you have those.

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I have BCBS FEP and I want to Thank You for the heads up. I had not yet looked at the new brochure for changes. This 5 yrs change for HAs is for Basic snd Standard plans. I was planning on getting new sids but I definitely will before end of year now. Who knows they might make me wait 2 more years if I don’t get get them now. Mine are 3 yrs old. Thank you again. I am buying mine through TruHearing. They do all the paperwork w/ your insurance etc. I’ve dealt with them in the past and it’s all been good. $$$ saved.
Side note: Insurance premiums went up snd we get less service. :woman_shrugging::cry:

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@eliotb Open season is 09 Nov - 14 Dec. Hasn’t started yet.

@Sequoia_Woman shouldn’t be a surprise the increased premium expectation has been around for a few months.

Thanks. I am aware of the open season dates and have a GEHA brochure on the way to hold up side-by-side with the BCBS Basic coverage before making the final decision. I’m now used to refreshing my technology every three years rather than five. The last time I wanted five years I found that I had been living in a horrible auditory hole.

That said, I did note the prices on this TruHearing or whatever is called are, in the main, pretty reasonable. But I haven’t looked at what their prices are for top tier brands.

@Sequoia_Woman – I am aware of the price increase. In my case, the GEHA product will be about $400 a year more expensive for self-plus-one, over and above whatever the Medicare B premium increase is. But the 3-year HA coverage, out-of-network coverage and side benefits like money for a gym membership appears to be worth it.

I was aware of increase in premiums. I just not looked at the 2021 brochure, as Open Season is November. 5yr HA change I was not aware of, I appreciated the heads up. This is the reason I normally update whe my 3 yrs were up, because things change w/ a strike of a pen. I don’t recall FedSmith website mentioning the change.

I’m new to hearing aids and just got my Widex Moment. I am a retired federal employee with Aetna Direct secondary to Medicare. Aetna paid $3000 plus a 45% discount. I opted for the second-tier. I think it’s at 330.

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I checked my BCBS-TX coverage through a state employee group - it’s still $1,000 per ear every 3 years.

Most interesting. Here in the DC area the BCBS reimbursement was $1500 per ear every three years, dropped down to $1250 per side every three years, and now the replacement period starting this year has been pushed out to every five years. At least on price, there are clearly regional differences.