Hearing loss affects a large percentage of senior citizens. About one in three people between the ages of 65 and 75 have difficulty hearing and that percentage increases to almost half for those older than 75. Since most seniors age 65 and older are on Medicare in the United States, it makes sense that people want to know: does Medicare cover hearing aids? Sadly, Original Medicare (Part A & Part B) do not cover hearing aids. On the other hand, most Medicare Advantage plans do and many veterans are eligible for hearing aids through their VA health coverage.
If you would like a Medicare plan that includes coverage for hearing aids, speak to a local Medicare agent to discuss your options.
Does Medicare cover hearing aids?
As of April, 2022, Original Medicare does not cover hearing aids or exams for fitting hearing aids. Medicare will cover a diagnostic hearing exam if it is deemed medically necessary by a healthcare provider. Seniors who don’t have a Medicare Advantage plan that covers hearing aids must pay the full cost out of pocket. Federal policymakers are working on rules for over-the-counter hearing aids, which may result in lower costs. Alternatively, sound amplifiers are available for purchase between $200 and $500. These devices are intended to improve environmental sound but are not ideal for those with hearing loss.
Why it’s important for Medicare to cover hearing aids
Hearing loss can be a debilitating health issue for seniors who don’t have access to treatment. Studies have shown that untreated hearing problems are linked to cognitive decline, loneliness, social isolation, and even depression and anxiety. Hearing loss also affects balance and has been linked to a higher risk of falling; a common cause of injury among seniors.
Why doesn’t Medicare cover hearing aids?
When Medicare was signed into law in 1965, hearing aids were excluded from the program because they were considered “low in cost” at the time. Over the decades, their cost has increased and can cost $2,000 to $7,000 or more for a set. According to a University of Michigan analysis of the Health and Retirement Study, the biggest barriers to hearing aids for seniors are their cost and lack of insurance coverage. This explains why 75% of Medicare beneficiaries who need a hearing aid are going without one.
In 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation called the Medicare Hearing Aid Coverage Act of 2021 to add hearing aids as a Medicare benefit for seniors with moderate to severe hearing loss. Unfortunately, the bill has not yet been passed by the Senate.
How are hearing aids covered through Medicare Advantage?
Most Medicare Advantage plans (Part C) include coverage for hearing aids. An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 93% of 2021 Medicare Advantage plans provided at least some coverage for hearing aids. Coverage will vary from plan to plan and seniors may still have out-of-pocket costs for devices as well as services by an audiologist or other specialist for fittings and training. The best thing to do is speak with your Medicare agent or plan administrator to confirm benefits and any out-of-pocket costs that you will be responsible for such as coinsurance, deductibles, or copays.
Are there charities that can help cover the cost of hearing aids?
There are some nonprofit organizations that help people who are unable to afford hearing aids on their own. Please see this link for a list of charitable organizations.
Our independent insurance agents are dedicated to assisting people on Medicare and those who are ready to transition from employer coverage to personal retirement coverage. We help kupuna understand their benefits options and apply for additional coverage, as needed. Because we represent all the major Medicare Advantage and supplement plans in Hawaii, we are able to offer unbiased advice; all at no cost to our clients.
At PBC, our clients are our number one priority and we look forward to getting to know you and your needs. Call us today at (808) 738-4500 to see how we may be of assistance.