Medicare Hearing Aid Coverage 2024: What’s Covered?

Hearing loss is a common condition in the US and becomes more common as we age. In fact, more than 37.5 million American adults experience hearing loss.

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Untreated hearing loss doesn’t just cause frustration with everyday life. The condition is also associated with hidden health risks, such as falls, cognitive decline, emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

Despite these health risks, less than 15% of adults who need hearing aids use them. Additionally, on average, it takes individuals nearly nine years to purchase hearing aids after being diagnosed with hearing loss, according to a 2019 study. study.

“Some older adults may view hearing loss as a normal part of aging and underestimate the importance of hearing health,” says Kathleen Cameron, senior director of the National Council on Aging’s Center for Healthy Aging. “They may not understand the impact of untreated hearing loss on their overall health.”

Hearing exams or hearing aids are one of the top five most delayed health care expenses. According to a 2023 survey by the Senior Citizens League, a nonpartisan advocacy group for seniors, that surveyed 3,890 adults 65 and older, a quarter of respondents were overdue for hearing exams and hearing aids.

Does Medicare cover hearing aids?

Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance), collectively known as Original Medicare, do not cover hearing aids or examinations specifically for hearing aids.

What is covered?

Medicare Part B covers diagnostic hearing and balance exams if ordered by your doctor for potential medical treatment. Part B will cover:

  • Hearing and balance test.
  • Annual audiological test ordered by your doctor, but not hearing aids.
  • Non-acute hearing conditions (such as hearing loss that occurs over many years).
  • Diagnostic services related to hearing loss treated with surgically implanted hearing aids.

“Because hearing aids are not covered by Medicare, individuals who are eligible for Medicare must find other insurance options through Medicare Advantage plans,” says Mary Johnson, Medicare policy analyst at the Senior Citizens League in Alexandria, Virginia.

Also known as Medicare Part C, Medicare Advantage plans are a private insurance alternative to Original Medicare and may offer additional coverage for hearing—as well as vision and dental—benefits not included in Original Medicare.

Does Medicare Advantage cover hearing aids?

“Some Medicare Advantage plans may cover the cost of hearing screenings and hearing aids, but coverage depends on your medical condition and may vary by state and provider,” says Lise Hamlin, director of public policy at the Hearing Loss Association of America in Rockville. Maryland.

The five states that mandate hearing aid coverage include:

  • Arkansas.
  • Connecticut.
  • Illinois.
  • New Hampshire.
  • Rhode Island.

Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, Humana, and United Healthcare offer certain benefits for hearing aids, but coverage depends on your medical condition and state of residence.

From 2018 to 2020, the percentage of Medicare Advantage plans offering some type of hearing benefit rose from 83% of all plans to 93%, according to the report of the Commonwealth Fund.

Does Medicaid cover hearing aids?

Some people are dually eligible and qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid, a state-run assistance program that offers health insurance to those with incomes below a certain threshold, regardless of age.

These people are often eligible for Medicare even though they are under the age of 65 because they receive Social Security income. While Medicare is the primary insurance for dual eligibles, Medicaid also provides some financial assistance, since most have an annual income of less than $20,000.

Medicaid hearing aid coverage varies by state, and specific coverage details will also vary. To learn more about what your state covers, see HLAA’s state-by-state breakdown a guide.

Navigating hearing aid costs and savings

Hearing aids can range in price from several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the features and services included. For those without hearing aid coverage through Medicare Advantage plans, there are other options to explore that may cover some of the cost, including:

  • Private health insurance. Check the details of your plan, but private health insurance may cover hearing tests and the cost of hearing aids.
  • Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs). Pre-tax flexible spending provided by an employer-sponsored FSA can be used to offset the cost of hearing aids and evaluations.
  • Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). HSAs allow you to contribute funds for medical expenses, such as hearing aids, that are not covered by Medicare or private insurance.
  • Veterans Administration (VA) benefits. You may be able to access free or low-cost hearing aids if you are a military veteran and qualify for general VA health care.
  • Community-specific resources. Government employees or members of the American Indian or Alaska Native community may also gain access to free or low-cost hearing aids.
  • Charitable foundations. For those with limited income, learn more about the Miracle-Ear Foundation, which provides its hearing aids to individuals who cannot afford quality hearing aids. Apart from the initial $150 non-refundable application fee, the services are free. You can learn more about eligibility requirements and find a center in your area at Miracle-Ear Foundation website.

Online hearing tests

Several online hearing tests are available, including seven that were reviewed by the National Council on Aging. However, it is important to note that these tests usually provide only basic screening. They may not detect potential medical complications or identify underlying hearing problems.

If the online test identifies hearing problems, then see an otolaryngologist or audiologist who are trained hearing testing and treatment professionals.

How to choose a hearing aid

Talk to your doctor or audiologist about the right hearing aid options that fit your budget and needs. Separately NCOA report reviewed the best hearing aids in specific categories, such as affordability, versatility, and the best invisible versions.

“When purchasing hearing aids, the cost of the device is only one-third of the total cost,” adds Hamlin. “The remaining costs include services, so it is important to understand what is included in the offer.”

When you are ready to choose hearing aids, it is advisable to read reviews from reliable sources. Prioritize features such as:

  • Customer support.
  • Return Policies.
  • Warranty for damage and loss.

Alternative hearing aid options

If your hearing loss is mild to moderate, you may want to explore the option of over-the-counter hearing aids.

In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration passed legislation to create a new category of hearing aids that could be sold over the counter without requiring a prescription or professional fitting. This aimed to increase access to assistive hearing devices for people aged 18 and over with mild to moderate hearing loss.

“These devices are intended to be more affordable and accessible than traditional hearing aids, which often require a consultation with an audiologist for fitting and fitting,” explains Cameron.

Some insurers cover OTC hearing aid devices, including:

  • Audien Atom Pro.
  • Eargo.
  • Go to the hearing.
  • MDHearing.
  • Otofonix.

Additionally, OTC hearing aids may be a suitable option if you have limited access to fitting clinics, are relatively tech-savvy, and feel comfortable fitting and fitting your own hearing aids.

When evaluating different options, it’s crucial to consider the overall cost.

“OTC hearing aids provide another pathway to care, so some people will get their hearing loss treated sooner,” Hamlin emphasizes.

Bottom line

Some seniors may be wary of purchasing hearing aids due to fear of substandard products and aggressive sales techniques, but hearing loss can negatively impact overall health and well-being.

Although Medicare may not cover the cost of hearing aids, most Medicare Advantage plans offer hearing screenings and hearing aids for seniors. Coverage will vary from plan to plan and state to state, so research your plan’s benefits carefully.

If you have mild to moderate hearing loss, you may also consider OTC hearing aids, which are more affordable.

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