Will Medicare Cover My Hearing Aid?
Did you know that about 15% of American adults have some form of hearing loss?1 And, the odds increase with age. Hearing loss affects up to 39.3% of adults in their 60s.2 Despite those numbers, most people who could benefit from hearing aids don’t use them. In fact, fewer than 20% of people who need hearing aids have them, due in part to cost and limited insurance coverage.3 We’ll discuss those issues in this article, but first let’s look at what causes hearing loss and how it can be treated.
Looking to get in front of your hearing loss problem? Start with an insurance plan that can help cover your care and devices. Call a licensed insurance agent at (800) 827-9990 for more information.
What causes hearing loss?
Several things contribute to hearing loss, most notably your exposure to noise over time, which has a cumulative effect. That means the rock concerts you went to in your 20s are a factor, as is the time you now spend mowing the lawn or using a leaf blower.4
But audiologist Erika Shakespeare of La Grande, Oregon, says that there is another reason hearing loss can crop up when you hit your 60s: ototoxic (hearing-harming) medications. These medications include chemotherapy drugs and over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen. “Oftentimes, we’ll have knee or hip issues, injuries, or arthritis that starts to kick in, so we might increase our NSAID usage,” she says. “And we might increase it to such a dosage that now we’re in the ototoxic arena.”
The longer you live with hearing loss, the harder it can be to improve your ability to hear. That’s because the brain plays a big role in hearing. “The brain knows how to use sound. It knows how to pay attention, how to listen, how to filter out noises that it doesn’t want to hear, how to localize where sound is,” Shakespeare says. “When we have hearing loss that goes untreated for a long time, we forget how to do those things.”
How is hearing loss treated?
The standard treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids. Most people need the devices in both ears, while others need a hearing aid only on one side.5 Most hearing aids use air induction, which means they amplify the sound that moves through your ear canal into your inner ear. However, if your outer or middle ear can’t conduct sound, you may need bone-conduction hearing aids that send sound straight to your inner ear.6
Hearing aids come in several styles, from behind-the-ear (BTE) to completely-in-canal (CIC) devices. Each style has different benefits and limitations, so it’s important to choose carefully. Prices for a single hearing aid may vary, but they can cost anywhere from less than $1,000 to as much as $4,000 per ear.7
Hearing aids—even the most expensive models—are only half the treatment for hearing loss. The other half is aural rehabilitation, which is all about learning to adapt to your situation.8 “Hearing aids are one of the tools that we have in our toolbox for managing hearing loss,” Shakespeare says. “But they are not the only thing that we have for managing hearing loss.”
For example, an audiologist can suggest ways to improve the sound environment in your home. Some of Shakespeare’s patients have benefited from things like adding a soundbar to their television setup or installing carpet to dampen echoes.
Shopping around for hearing aids? You may be able to save if you have the right coverage. Call a licensed insurance agent at (800) 827-9990 today.
Does Medicare cover hearing aids?
Medicare doesn’t provide coverage for hearing tests or hearing aids, so you’ll have to pay those costs out of pocket.9 It does, however, cover diagnostic hearing and balance exams conducted by an audiologist, if your doctor or healthcare provider orders them.10 (Balance exams test for a series of disorders, like Meniere’s disease, which can cause hearing issues.11)
If you’re a Medicare Advantage member (meaning you’ve chosen a private plan that supplements or is an alternative to Medicare), you may be in luck. But be sure to read the fine print to see what the plan will pay. Shakespeare says some Medicare Advantage plans just offer a discount on the manufacturer’s suggested retail price of a hearing aid.
How else can you pay for hearing services?
A licensed insurance agent at HealthMarkets can help walk you through all your options. Call one today at (800) 827-9990 to get stared.