What does your hearing mean to you? Is it something extra or something essential?
The truth is that excellent hearing not only connects us to the wider world, but it also ensures that we remain in good health for years to come. That’s because our hearing is intrinsically linked to the way our brains function normally, and our brains can begin to suffer without regular stimulation from sounds.
Studies from Johns Hopkins University show that this can have a degrading effect on our cognitive abilities over time, raising the risks of acquiring syndromes such as dementia. The good news is that there are treatments and care options available that can stop a hearing loss in its tracks. But many worry that they don’t have the investment needed for the right assistance, which discourages them from proceeding.
In conversations with my patients, I’m often asked about different medical insurers, and in particular about what Medicare offers. To provide some general insight, I’ve put together this article on what Medicare hearing aid benefits are available to you.
Before we dive into what Medicare will pay for hearing aids, let’s take a moment to consider why a hearing aid costs so much.
Why Does a Hearing Aid Cost So Much?
One of the reasons people put off getting the help they need from hearing aids is because they require a significant investment. Most older adults don’t have an extra $3,000 lying around, which is why they shop online or in big-box stores for less expensive options.
Because there’s no hearing test required and they cost significantly less, over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids seem like a great bargain until you begin to look into what you’re actually getting for the money you spend.
OTC hearing aids are limited in what they provide. They are designed to only provide assistance for mild to moderate hearing loss. Consequently, they lack some of the essential processing power you might need for a more severe hearing impairment.
In addition to lacking processing power, the OTC hearing aid you choose may not be properly programmed to meet your specific hearing loss needs.
One of the best analogies is to compare hearing aids to eyeglasses. You can also buy reading glasses OTC, but if you have a more significant issue with your vision, you need a specialized lens—for which you need an eye exam by a licensed optometrist and prescription glasses.
If your hearing loss is significant, then you will need a hearing exam by a licensed audiologist or hearing instrument specialist and prescription hearing aids that are specifically programmed to address your hearing impairment.
In addition to advanced processing power and programming to address your specific hearing loss needs, prescription hearing aids come with ongoing support, troubleshooting, maintenance, repair, and testing to ensure that your hearing care needs are being adequately addressed—things you won’t get OTC or online.
You also can’t expect to receive any help to pay for hearing aids purchased online or over the counter.
Hearing Aid Coverage from Medicare
Based on statistics, the majority of older adults (ages 65 and above), which is the most common demographic for hearing loss, are eligible for Medicare coverage.
Unfortunately, Medicare won’t cover the cost of hearing aid treatments, although “part B” does offer some extra benefits regarding hearing care.
So, What Does Medicare Cover?
eHealth Medicare says, “In general, Original Medicare and most Medicare Supplement (or Medigap) Plans don’t cover hearing aids, routine hearing exams, or fittings for hearing aids. This means that without other insurance, you could pay 100 percent of the costs of these.”
There is some help offered with Medicare part B, where you pay 20 percent coinsurance, and a part B deductible for doctor-ordered diagnostic hearing tests that are related to an injury or illness. But in essence, this plan doesn’t offer very much in the way of tangible funded assistance.
Medicare Coverage Alternatives
If you don’t have any coverage and don’t qualify for plans, such as Medicare Advantage, you’ll have to consider other, limited alternatives. In truth, the only way you can find the investment needed for hearing aid treatment will be if you qualify for a hearing-related benefits program, offered by Medicaid or another private health insurance provider who offers Medicaid and/or Medicare supplements.
Why Not Let Us Help You?
This can all sound a bit gloomy! But the truth is that there are many ways that you might not know about to afford hearing care services. For instance, there is some assistance available for AARP members for hearing aids and exams.
So why not take advantage of our dedicated insurance experts at All About Hearing, who can help you to get the most out of your personal situation?
With one quick phone call, you’ll have peace of mind on exactly where you stand with your hearing care coverage moving forward.
If you have concerns or just want to find out more information, simply give us a call at 432-689-2220 and we’ll do all the hard work for you!