By Daniel Petkevich
Nov 9, 2022
Hearing loss is a common problem in the United States, especially as people get older. It can have a profound negative impact on a person's quality of life — leading to isolation, depression, and even dementia.
The technology in hearing aids has improved significantly. But over the years, the cost of these devices has skyrocketed — making them unaffordable for many Americans. People suffering from hearing loss can't get hearing aids because of the price.
If this applies to you or someone you know, you may wonder whether Medicare or some other program can help cover the cost.
Let's find out. We'll look at a few different Medicare plans and discuss how you can get coverage.
In 2023, hearing aids will cost between $2000 and $7000 per pair. The exact price depends on their type, model, and features.
Hearing aids come in both basic and advanced options.
The most high-tech ones use Bluetooth connectivity and artificial intelligence (these cost the most).
Hearing aid costs are often bundled. Bundles typically include hearing aids, a consultation, an initial fitting, and follow-up appointments. They also sometimes include a warranty, routine cleanings, and batteries.
If your plan doesn't cover hearing aids, you can reduce the initial cost by unbundling these services. In other words, separate the cost of the hearing aid from the associated services, and limit the number of follow-ups.
But first, let's see whether your insurance plan can help cover these costs.
No. Medicare doesn't cover hearing aids or exams for fitting hearing aids.
Individuals enrolled in Original Medicare must pay 100% of the costs for hearing aids and exams.
That said, Medicare does cover hearing tests under certain conditions.
Medicare Part B covers 80% of diagnostic hearing or balance exams.
You still need to pay a portion of the costs, which include:
20% of the Medicare-approved costs
Your annual Part B deductible ($226 in 2023)
A hospital copayment (if the tests are conducted in a hospital outpatient setting)
Many Medicare Advantage Plans (or Medicare Part C) provide some coverage for hearing aids and hearing exams.
If you're enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, your plan might cover the following costs:
Hearing aid batteries
Audiologist visits for fitting and adjustments
While many Medicare Advantage plans cover hearing aids, some provide coverage in only a few states, and others offer no coverage at all.
Your exact coverage depends on your plan and insurance provider. So, you might still need to pay a share of the costs. You should check with your provider to confirm what your plan covers.
No. Medigap Plans don't cover hearing aids.
Medigap plans are an extension of the Original Medicare and help fill the gaps left by Original Medicare. Since Original Medicare doesn't cover hearing aids, Medigap plans don't either.
However, Medigap plans can lower out-of-pocket expenses for doctor-recommended diagnostic hearing or balance exams. Original Medicare (or Medicare Part B) covers 80% of these tests. So, depending on your plan, you might pay under 20% or nothing at all.
If you're not enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan that covers hearing aids, you can still get help in the following ways:
Medicaid programs might cover hearing aids and exams if:
You qualify based on your income
It's available in the state in which you reside
Retiree health insurance plans may cover hearing tests and hearing aids to some extent.
If you're a federal retiree under the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) or Federal Flexible Spending Account Program (FSAFEDS), you might get coverage if your plan covers hearing aids.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) covers veterans who've worked alongside audiologists to assess their need for hearing aids.
This program provides hearing aids, repairs, and future batteries at no charge —as long as individuals maintain VA eligibility.
You can also look for discounts on hearing aids. Shop around, join a discount program, or look for membership discounts.
Ask your healthcare provider for resources and information.
Various programs — Kiwanis Club or Lions Club — offer financial aid to individuals seeking hearing assistance. Check with your hearing specialist about options in your area.
As of October 2022, you can purchase over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids in stores or online —without visiting a hearing health professional. They cost between $200 and $3000 and are meant for adults with mild or moderate hearing loss.
It's unknown whether Medicare Advantage plans will cover OTC hearing aids.
Some Medicare Advantage plans may include them in their OTC supplemental benefits — which provide coverage for drugs and other drugstore items. Talk to your insurance provider to verify your plan's OTC coverage.
There are a few historical reasons why Medicare doesn't cover hearing aids:
Hearing aids used to be less expensive
When the Medicare Act of 1965 established Medicare — a health insurance program designed for seniors — hearing aids and exams were relatively affordable.
Age-related hearing loss wasn't as common
As the average lifespan has increased over the years, people are living long enough to develop hearing problems.
We didn't understand the social-emotional impact of hearing loss
Not many people realized that it could lead to depression and social isolation, so treating it wasn't a priority.
The H.R.5376 Build Back Better Act could extend Medicare coverage to hearing aids and treatment.
This bill was presented to Congress in November 2021. The House approved it, and now the Senate is reviewing it.
If the bill passes, Medicare will cover hearing aids in the future.
While Original Medicare and Medigap don't cover hearing aids, some Medicare Advantage Plans do.
If your current plan doesn't cover the hearing services you need, you may be able to switch. You can also look for discounts, ask your healthcare provider about financial aid opportunities, and consider using OTC products.
If comparing different plans overwhelms you, Fair Square Medicare is here to help. Call us at 1-888-376-2028.
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