Hearing loss is one of the most common afflictions that comes with aging. Roughly one-in-three seniors experiences hearing loss. By the time they’re 75, nearly half of all seniors will have trouble hearing. With so many experiencing hearing troubles, it’s a good thing there’s an option readily available — the hearing aid.
Hearing Aid History
The hearing aid has been around in some form since the 1600s. Hearing aids may even go back as far as the 13th century. These weren’t the discrete, headphone-like hearing aids we have today. Instead, they were the hollowed-out animal horns or ear trumpets. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that electronic hearing aids were introduced.
Hearing aids became more familiar-looking around the 1960s and later when they began being made out of silicon. They also started becoming less analog, moving into the digital realm. They became fully digital in 1996. Today, hearing aids interact with TVs and phones, while a battery’s lifespans are growing each year.
Does Medicare Cover Hearing Aids?
Unfortunately, for those with Original Medicare, Parts A and B will not cover your hearing aid. This includes the exams and hearing aid fittings. Medicare Supplements also rarely cover hearing aids or hearing examinations. You’ll be expected to cover 100% of the costs in these instances.
There is one exception to this. In 2005, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) revised its policy on bone-anchored hearing aids (BAHA). The revision changed the policy to now consider BAHAs as prosthetics. Original Medicare now covers these type of hearing aids.
Unfortunately, for those with Original Medicare, Parts A and B will not cover most hearing aids.
Medicare Advantage is a different case. While this doesn’t apply to all Part C plans, some offer coverage for hearing aids. Medicare Advantage plans often include additional services along with the required coverage. In some instances, this will be prescription drugs, vision, dental, or yes, hearing care. Check your plan to see if hearing aids are included in your coverage. You can also use the Medicareful Plan Finder to explore what plans near you cover hearing aids.
Buying Hearing Aids
Once you’ve determined that you need a hearing aid, it comes time to buy one. A good hearing aid can cost you anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000, depending on the model and features. Luckily there are several options that you can explore to help you hear crystal clear again.
In some cases, you may be able to have some of your hearing aid costs covered by Medicaid, though it may vary upon the state you live in. Not every state covers hearing aids through Medicaid. Luckily, roughly half of the states do offer some level of coverage for the devices.
Other Financial Aid
There are other avenues to help you pay for hearing aids.
If neither Medicare or Medicaid are options for you, there are other avenues to explore. Chief among these are nonprofits. Groups like the Starkey Foundation or the Hearing Loss Association of America offer many programs to help seniors afford hearing aids. Most of these programs, like Audient, require your income to be under a certain level. Each program is different, though, so it’s worth investigating.
You can also check a Sertoma Club near you. Some clubs run a hearing aid recycling program which make hearing aids affordable. Sertoma’s website also offers an exhaustive list of resources for hearing aids help. For further information on financial assistance, contact the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).
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Losing your hearing can go beyond being a nuisance or hindrance to your daily life. When you lose your ability to hear, you lose your favorite songs, movies, or even birdsongs.
If you’re beginning to lose your hearing, speak to your doctor. Then, start exploring your options to make hearing aids more affordable. You don’t have to lose your favorite tunes to hearing loss.
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders — Hearing Aids