Does Medicare Cover Hearing Aids?
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 were not the discrete, headphone-like hearing aids we have today. Instead, they were the hollowed-out animal horns or ear trumpets. It was not 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 lifespan are growing each year.
Does Medicare Cover Hearing Aids?
Unfortunately, for those with Original Medicare, Parts A and B will not cover a beneficiary’s hearing aid. This includes the exams and hearing aid fittings. Medicare Supplements also rarely cover hearing aids or hearing examinations. They will be expected to cover 100% of the costs in these instances.
Medicare Advantage is a different case. While this does not 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. Beneficiaries should check their plan to see if hearing aids are included in their coverage.
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.
Buying Hearing Aids
Once a beneficiary has determined that they need a hearing aid, it comes time to buy one. A good hearing aid can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000, depending on the model and features. Luckily there are several options that beneficiaries can explore to help them hear crystal clear again.
In some cases, beneficiaries may be able to have some of their hearing aid costs covered by Medicaid, though it may vary upon the state they 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
If neither Medicare or Medicaid are options, 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 beneficiaries’ income to be under a certain level. Each program is different, though, so it’s worth investigating.
Beneficiaries can also check a Sertoma Club near them. 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).
If a beneficiary is beginning to lose their hearing, they should speak to their doctor. Then, they should start exploring their options to make hearing aids more affordable.
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