Medical expenses are defined as the costs of diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, and the costs for treatments affecting any part or function of the body including dental expenses (Sec 213(d)(1)).
Questions frequently arise related to the deductibility of devices or supplies designed primarily for use by the elderly. A number of devices, such as specialized phones with big buttons, pictures in place of the numbers, amplifiers for the hard of hearing, etc., are available without prescription. There are also medical alert devices that the elderly or infirm can wear and get medical help should they fall or have another medical emergency.
To be deductible, these devices must meet the definition of a medical expense. In some cases, to meet the definition of a medical device requires the device to be prescribed by a medical professional and sometimes not.
For instance, an individual who is deaf would be able to deduct the cost of a text (TTY) phone whether actually prescribed by a doctor or not, while one who is not deaf would not be able to deduct the cost. However, in an examination, the IRS might require proof the individual is deaf.
Another example is the purchase of prescription eye glasses, the cost of which would be deductible since they are prescribed, but the purchase of magnifying glass at the drug store would not.
However, where there is a question of whether the device is actually needed medically a prescription from the doctor may be needed. Such would be the case for specialty phones, medical alert devices, adult diapers, etc.