Last Updated on October 18, 2023 by Lori Pace
Two-thirds of Americans over 70 are affected by hearing loss. Original Medicare Part A & B does not cover the cost of hearing aids, or any related costs such as fitting hearing aids and checking for them.
Medicare Part B can cover some of the costs for hearing tests if a doctor deems it necessary to have them. Some Medicare Advantage (Part C), plans also cover hearing aid exams and devices.
What Are Hearing Aids?
Hearing aids come in various forms, each designed to address specific types of hearing impairments. These small, portable devices have evolved significantly over the years. A typical digital hearing aid consists of several crucial components: a microphone to capture sound, circuitry for precise amplification, a speaker to deliver enhanced sound to the ear, and a battery to power the device.
Remarkably, modern hearing aids are advancing even further, with some models offering the ability to connect seamlessly to smartphones or even interface with the neural system. This innovation is not only fascinating but also underscores the rapid progress in hearing aid technology, making it crucial to explore the most suitable options based on your unique hearing needs.
Hearing aids are not for every people having hearing loss. Studies show that only one in five people who require hearing aids has them. These devices are not cheap, and insurance coverage is required to cover the cost.
Why Doesn’t Medicare Cover Hearing Aids?
The Medicare Act, which was passed into law in 1965 did not cover hearing aids. This was due to the fact that hearing aids are often used only occasionally and were relatively cheap at the time. Medicare subscribers would usually have to pay the full cost of hearing aids. In those days, senior citizens were not as likely to live as long as today. As a result, only a small percentage of people with hearing loss due to old age had hearing problems. It was not well understood how important hearing loss treatment is to help reduce anxiety and depression.
As of the most recent data available, there’s an encouraging development on the horizon. The Medicare Audiologist Access & Services Act of 2021, a bill aimed at expanding Medicare coverage to include audiology services and hearing aids, has been making significant strides. This initiative recognizes the growing need for improved hearing care among seniors.
When Do You Know You Need Hearing Aids?
These are signs that you may need hearing aids:
- People around you whisper when they aren’t.
- Having trouble understanding a group of people talking
- Making people repeat what they say.
- Conversations over the phone cannot be heard.
- Hearing a ringing or hissing sound in your ears.
- Having to raise the volume of the TV or sound system more than its normal volume.
- Cannot identify the direction of the sound.
- Conversations tire you.
Normal hearing is when you can hear sounds at 25 decibels or a whisper. You may need a pair of hearing aids if you are unable to hear 30 decibels of sound or more.
It’s important to set realistic expectations about hearing aids. While they won’t fully restore normal hearing, they can significantly enhance sounds and voices within specific pitch ranges, which can have a meaningful impact on your daily life. Many people wonder whether one or both ears may need hearing aids. While it’s true that in some cases only one ear may need assistance, it’s not uncommon for both ears to benefit from hearing aids. This decision should be based on your specific hearing needs and the recommendations of your healthcare provider.
Do the Various Parts of Medicare Cover Hearing Aids?
Medicare Part A
Medicare Part A does not pay for hearing tests, hearing device fittings, or the actual devices. This plan does not cover seniors who have signed up for Medicare due to a disability.
If you have Medicare Part A and need hearing aids, then you will be responsible for paying the entire cost of the device as well as any additional expenses.
Medicare Part B
Medicare Part B does not pay for hearing aids but it will pay for hearing tests recommended by a doctor who must diagnose if you have a hearing disorder. You are still responsible for 20% of Medicare-approved expenses. The unpaid deductibles will be added to your plan. You will need to pay directly to the healthcare provider if you are going to a hospital’s outpatient department for a hearing exam.
Medicare Part B also covers BAHA (Bone-Anchored Hearing Aids). BAHA devices are considered prosthetics by Medicare, and not hearing aids. BAHAs can be surgically placed devices that cater to individuals with different types of hearing impairments. BAHAs work differently than traditional hearing aids. They transmit sound through bone conduction, stimulating the cochlea and going around both the middle and the outer ear. These devices may be an option for you if your hearing loss can be corrected.
Medicare Part C
This plan also known as Medicare Advantage, is an alternative to Original Medicare (Part A and B). If you’re considering Medicare Part C (also known as Medicare Advantage), it’s essential to understand its potential benefits. Some Medicare Advantage plans do cover hearing aids, and this coverage has been increasing. Recent data from 2023 indicates that a significant percentage of Medicare Advantage providers (88%) offer coverage for hearing aids. If you have a Medicare Part B plan from a private insurer, a portion will cover the cost of fitting and purchasing your hearing aids.
You should check with your insurance provider to verify that your hearing aid is covered. These plans can vary greatly in terms of their coverage.
Medicare Part D
Understanding how different parts of Medicare cover hearing aids is essential for your overall well-being. While Medicare Part D provides valuable coverage for prescription medication, it’s crucial to note that hearing aids and hearing checkups are not typically included in this plan. Addressing hearing loss goes beyond the scope of Part D.
However, other aspects of Medicare, such as Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage), are evolving to encompass hearing aid coverage, reflecting the growing recognition of the vital role hearing health plays in maintaining a high quality of life as we age. By considering these aspects during your Medicare enrollment, you’re not only making informed financial decisions but also prioritizing your overall health and happiness.
Do Medicare Supplement Plans Pay for Hearing Aids?
Let’s talk about Medicare Supplement Insurance, commonly referred to as Medigap. It’s essential to understand what Medigap covers and what it doesn’t, especially concerning hearing aids. While Medigap itself doesn’t typically include coverage for hearing aids, it plays a critical role in managing other out-of-pocket expenses like copayments or coinsurance, which can add up. These policies are offered by private insurance companies approved by Medicare, so it’s essential to carefully review the coverage options they provide to ensure you’re prepared for potential healthcare costs beyond what Original Medicare (Part A & B) offers.
As we age, the likelihood of experiencing hearing loss increases. This can have significant implications for our daily lives, both in terms of our overall quality of life and our finances. It’s crucial to consider the potential impact of untreated hearing loss. When you’re enrolling in Original Medicare or exploring different Medicare Advantage Plans, keep in mind the importance of addressing your hearing needs, not just for your well-being but also to make informed decisions that align with your long-term health and financial goals.