About 48 million Americans and one in three seniors experience hearing loss, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America.
With these numbers, you would think it would be easy for seniors to get hearing aids. However, hearing aids aren’t covered by most insurance companies. Medicare doesn’t cover them at all.
This is huge problem, especially for an aging population that mostly lives on fixed incomes. Hearing aids can be expensive, ranging from a few hundred to several thousand dollars (or between $1,600 for one low-end hearing aid and $3,600 for a higher-end one, according to the AARP).
If you are beginning to experience hearing loss and may need the assistance of a hearing aid, there are several things you can do:
Talk to Your Doctor
Several things can cause hearing loss, including genetic conditions, injury or illness. If you are having trouble hearing, the first thing to do is talk to your doctor.
Your doctor can order a diagnostic hearing test, which may be covered by Medicare Part B, since Medicare Part A and most Medigap plans don’t cover routine hearing exams, fittings for hearing aids or hearing aids themselves. Before you get tested, make sure your doctor is participating in the Medicare program. If he or she isn’t in the program, then you may be responsible for the cost of the test.
Paying for Hearing Aids
If your test results indicate hearing loss, there are a few things you can do to cover the cost of a hearing aid.
Veterans Benefits: If you are a military veteran, you may qualify for free hearing aids from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The department’s website outlines nine criteria for a veteran to get free hearing aids. As long as you meet one of these nine requirements, you should qualify.
Medicare Advantage: Some Medicare Advantage plans may cover the cost of hearing tests and hearing aids. However, you should review your plan carefully or call your provider to make sure these things are covered and what process you must follow for your provider to pay for them. For example, your Medicare Advantage plan may only cover your hearing aid if it comes from a specific supplier. It’s important to have this information before you get a hearing test.
State Programs: Several states have rehabilitation services that help people with disabilities. Some of these offices have programs that provide financial assistance for hearing tests and hearing aids. The state of Florida has a Division of Vocational Rehabilitation that offers services to people who suffer from hearing loss. You can call the office to find out whether it offers financial help for hearing tests and hearing aids. Medicaid and other state programs may also offer financial assistance, and your state’s rehabilitation office can point you in this direction, even if it doesn’t offer these services.
Non-Profit Organizations: Several non-profit organizations, including the Starkey Hearing Foundation and Sertoma, help people get hearing aids for free. The Starkey Foundation offers people who meet certain income requirements free hearing aids. Sertoma, an organization that supports hearing health, offers restored hearing aids to people who cannot afford to buy new ones.
Hearing loss is a serious health condition that affects many people’s quality of life. If you are having trouble hearing, don’t hesitate to see a doctor. Your doctor can help you and give you information about programs that may cover the costs of hearing tests and hearing aids.