About one in three people ages 65 to 74 has hearing loss — and it affects half of all adults ages 75 and older. Despite how common this problem is, Medicare (federal insurance for people ages 65 and older) often doesn’t cover the costs of hearing exams or hearing aids. And with or without insurance coverage, hearing aids can be very expensive — so many older adults who need hearing aids simply can’t afford them.
Learn about Medicare coverage options for hearing aids, and other ways you may be able to get the hearing devices you need.
Which Medicare Plans Cover Hearing Aids?
The Medicare program is divided into parts that each cover a specific type of medical care. Medicare Parts A and B are collectively referred to as Original Medicare — and neither of these parts includes coverage for hearing aids.
Some Medicare Part C plans — also known as Medicare Advantage plans — cover some of the costs of hearing aids. These plans may also include other types of coverage not included in Original Medicare, like dental and vision benefits. But each Medicare Advantage plan is different, so read the details carefully to find out if a specific plan will help pay for hearing aids.
How Does Hearing Aid Coverage Work Under Medicare Advantage Plans?
Some Medicare Advantage plans include hearing exams, hearing aids and audiologist (hearing specialist) visits in their Medicare plans. But it’s important to make sure that hearing aids are included before you sign up for a plan. Some states — including Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, New Hampshire and Rhode Island — require all insurance providers to include hearing aids for adults.
Even when plans do include hearing services, the exact coverage can vary. For example, some plans may cover the visits to a hearing specialist but not the cost of the hearing aids themselves. The plan may have a cap on the amount it will pay for hearing aids, and you’ll likely have some out-of-pocket costs either way — like a copay or coinsurance.
What to Do If Medicare Doesn’t Cover Your Hearing Aids
On the less expensive end, hearing aids can still cost more than $1,000. Added to the costs of the medical devices themselves is the expense of seeing an audiologist to determine the right kind of hearing aids and to get them fitted.
The National Council on Aging provides a list of charitable organizations that may be able to help with the cost of hearing aids. Some audiologist offices also offer in-house financing, so you can take out a loan and make monthly payments towards the cost of your hearing aids. Some hearing aid companies also offer short-term financing options to space out the cost of the hearing aids over a year or two.
Why Hearing Aids Are Important for Older Adults
Hearing loss can have a huge impact on your quality of life — and on your overall health. Beyond the obvious safety risks like not being able to hear a smoke alarm or an approaching car, hearing problems can have some unexpected effects. For example, it’s linked to a higher risk of falls in older adults.
Hearing loss can also make it hard to communicate and understand conversations — and this can lead to social isolation and depression. Mental health problems are higher in adults with hearing disorders. And while experts aren’t sure whether hearing loss causes cognitive problems, people with hearing loss are more likely to have dementia and other memory problems.
Coming Soon: More Medicare Coverage and Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids
If you need hearing aids but your Medicare plan doesn’t cover them, that may be changing soon. President Biden and Democratic leaders have announced plans to expand coverage of hearing services under Original Medicare. If these plans go forward, you can expect Original Medicare plans to start offering coverage for hearing exams and certain hearing aids as soon as 2023.
And another piece of good news: In October 2021, the Food and Drug Administration announced a rule change that will allow companies to sell hearing aids over-the-counter. Over-the-counter aids could be a cheaper alternative for people with mild-to-moderate hearing loss. However, you’ll probably still need a doctor’s prescription for hearing aids if you have more severe hearing loss.
If you’re concerned you may have hearing loss, talk with your doctor. Together, you can make a plan to protect your hearing and discuss options to get the hearing aids or other hearing services you need.
- “The Hidden Risks of Hearing Loss” via Johns Hopkins Medicine
- “Hearing Loss: A Common Problem for Older Adults” via National Institute on Aging
- “Medicare and Hearing Health for Seniors” via National Council on Aging
- “State Insurance Mandates for Hearing Aids” via American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
- “Protecting Your Hearing Means Protecting Your Mental Health — Hearing Health Foundation” via Hearing Health Foundation
- “Democrats Plan to Expand Medicare Hearing Benefits. What Can Consumers Expect?” via Kaiser Health News