Will Medicare Cover Your Hearing Aids?
If you’ve reached an age where you need to start considering hearing aids, you may have concerns about what hearing aids will cost you. Your hearing is something vital to your quality of life and not something you will want to lose. Unfortunately, for many people who have reached Medicare age, some degree of hearing loss is a normal part of life.
Whether you need hearing aid assistance for your current set, or you need to replace an older set, you may be looking to your health insurance for the possibility of Medicare hearing aids or free hearing aid programs. Hearing aids, like most things in healthcare, aren't cheap but are often necessary.
Will Medicare Pay For Your Hearing Aids?
While Medicare Part B will pay for your hearing exams, if ordered by your doctor to diagnose certain health conditions, there are no Medicare hearing aids, at least under original Medicare. Even in the case of covered exams, Part B will pay only 80% of the cost. This means that a typical exam to diagnose hearing loss isn’t covered by your Medicare coverage at all. Furthermore, those Medigap plans that many seniors purchase for enhanced Medicare coverage, or to fill in the gaps in their coverage, also exclude coverage for hearing aids or standard hearing exams.
Over The Counter (OTC) Hearing Aid Act
To help ease costs on hearing devices that Medicare coverage excludes, the Senate passed bipartisan legislation in 2017 known as the Over The Counter Hearing Aid Act. The law allows the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) to create a new group of OTC hearing aids. This means you will be able to buy a hearing aid without paying for a costly trip to your doctor's office.
These devices, whose safety and efficacy will be regulated by the FDA, will be available online, in stores, and can be purchased via mail order. It may take some time before the FDA develops a framework for OTC hearing aids, in other words, don't expect to see these hearing aids on store shelves for a few more years.
The wait may be worth it though as they are expected to come in with considerably lower costs to consumers. This law opens the market to more competition and choice, which, it is hoped, will ultimately lower prices.
How Much Hearing Aids Usually Cost
The reason this is such an important issue, something you will know if you already have hearing aids, is that they are extremely expensive. Estimates put the average cost somewhere around $2400-$3600, and that is per ear. The hope is that once the OTC hearing aids are released to the market, they will come in at a much more reasonable, though still expensive, $500 per ear.
Not Covered? Find A Medicare Advantage Plan
While there are no traditional Medicare hearing aids, Medicare Advantage plans are another story. You may be able to find an Advantage plan that offers some relief on the hearing front. Medicare Advantage plans cover everything included in original Medicare coverage, but many Advantage plans also cover routine hearing exams and, in some cases, the hearing aids themselves.
These plans often require a premium above and beyond the normal Part B premium. Given the expense involved in getting tested and purchasing hearing aids, this may be something worth considering.
Get Assistance For Hearing Aids
Hearing aid assistance is also available from some other sources though most of these programs are limited to low-income individuals. These include programs for children, state vocational rehab agencies that help working and college-age individuals with heating costs, and hearing aid banks and loan programs. Also, some state Medicaid programs cover hearing devices for beneficiaries.
Despite the limitations, particularly around income, it may benefit you to explore all forms of hearing aid assistance.
Free Hearing Aid Programs
If you are in need of hearing aid assistance or want to explore opportunities for free hearing aid programs, your doctor or audiologist may be a great place to start. They will probably have information on local organizations with free hearing aid programs. Additional organizations that help individuals with hearing test and devices include Audient, the Hearing Loss Association of America, Lions Clubs International, and the Starkey Hearing Foundation.
It may also be worth contacting hearing aid manufacturers. They sometimes take volunteers to trial new devices at discounted rates or free of charge.