Does Medicare cover hearing aids?

Sections A and B under Medicare do not cover hearing aids or other related services, such as hearing aid fitting assessments. Nevertheless, Medicare Part B may cover part of the cost of general hearing tests when the ordering doctor deems it necessary to help in medical treatment.

Medicare Parts A and B do not provide hearing aids for older adults or individuals with a disability that has Medicare.

Most hearing loss sufferers will benefit from using hearing aids. Such tools are important for the general well-being of the deaf and partly hearing-losing individuals, for whom they can greatly boost the quality of life.

In this article we look at which aspects of Medicare will cover the cost of medication and diagnosis of hearing loss.

Cover for hearing aids in 2020

Woman receiving hearing exams
individual can get coverage with Medicare Part B for part of the cost of general hearing exams.

Medicare Parts A so B shall not include hearing aids as of 2020. However, this could change because of a government bill currently under consideration.

The HR 3 bill reached by Congress in 2019 requires the government to control prescription drug costs, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. If the Senate passes the bill, the lower-price benefits will cover hearing treatment, which may require hearing aids.

HR 3 has not yet passed the Senate, however, and it could not succeed in becoming law.

This legislation named the 2019 Medicare Audiologist Access and Services Act is also a step in the right direction for audiology services coverage and, potentially, hearing aids. The act is still to become law, though, and its fate is unknown.

Lawmakers and advocacy groups step in a better direction when it comes to hearing aids. Now, however, it is not clear if Medicare will amend its policies to cover those tools in the coming years.

Medicare Part B and hearing aids

Partie B in Medicare does not make hearing aids or hearing aid fitting tests. Medicare Part B usually covers medically needed services to treat an active medical condition.

While Medicare Part B does not cover hearing aids, it does cover hearing tests prescribed by a doctor to diagnose a hearing problem. The person on the program, however, remains responsible for paying 20 per cent of the bill.

They will also have to pay a portion of any remaining policy deductibles. Individuals who attend a hearing test in a hospital’s emergency department will need to cover a co-payment directly to the health care provider.

Medicare Part B also provides hearing aids with bone anchoring (BAHA). Medicare categorizes the BAHA as a prothetic system rather than a hearing aid.

A BAHA is a surgically implanted system that supports individuals with some forms of hearing loss. This operates differently than traditional hearing aids. A BAHA transmits sound waves by bone conduction, activating the cochlea and bypassing the outer and middle ears.

It is important to realize that a BAHA is not the same as a conventional hearing aid. It may however be an option for certain individuals with other types of hearing loss.

Does Medicare Advantage cover hearing aids?

Medicare Part C, also known as the Medicare Advantage, is an insurance plan provided by private insurance companies to supplement Medicare Parts A and B. But cost and coverage vary according to schedule.

Many Medicare Advantage programs, such as insurance, cover hearing aids and associated costs.

People who are considering Medicare Advantage will compare individual plans ‘ benefits before choosing the best choice for their needs.

How much does a hearing aid usually cost?

The cost of hearing aids is complex. The average cost of one hearing aid is around $2,400, according to a 2015 study by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Some people may need two hearing aids, the cost of which would be $4,800.

The high cost of hearing aids will make it hard for some people to deal with their hearing loss. Those tools, however, can greatly improve the quality of life for people with hearing conditions.

How to know whether you need a hearing aid

There are several early warning signs of loss of hearing. A person may benefit from hearing aid if they:

  • frequently ask people to repeat what they said
  • have an inability to understand dialogue when watching TV
  • strain to hear conversations
  • have trouble understanding what people say when their faces are not visible
  • think that others are mumbling
  • have trouble hearing over the phone
  • hear ringing, hissing, or rushing noises
  • regularly miss the doorbell when it rings
  • receive suggestions from other people that they have a hearing problem
  • avoid group conversations over concerns that they may be challenging to follow
  • often find that the source or location of a sound is difficult to identify
  • regularly hear from others that the TV, radio, or phone is too loud when they use it
  • find male voices easier to follow than female voices, which may be a sign of high register hearing loss
  • feel tired and stressed after trying to follow a conversation
  • have the sense that people are mumbling more than they did previously

Hearing aids are an adaptation for the deaf which partially hearing losers, which can make life easier to handle. Nevertheless, they are not a cure, since they do not address the underlying biological causes.

Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) may also be treated with hearing aids. SNHL is the most common form of permanent hearing loss, and includes damage to the inner ear, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

People who have hearing loss should speak to their physician. Statistics indicate that it takes an average of 7 years for people to receive hearing loss care, likely because of high costs and concerns about social stigma.

Anyone who puts off thinking about hearing aids because of concerns that they are too noticeable should find some comfort in recent advances in technology. Hearing aids are smaller now than ever before and more discreet.

People with hearing-loss symptoms should seek a doctor’s appointment for a hearing test. If the doctor finds a problem, they will usually refer an ear, nose and throat doctor, or otolaryngologist, to a specialist.

The specialist must carry out further verification tests to determine the type and severity of any hearing issues.

Why hearing aids are vital

According to The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, there are about 30 million people living with hearing loss in the United States. The Academy also states that they are not used by an estimated 67–86 percent of people aged 50 and older who could benefit from hearing aids.

Hearing aids can however improve the quality of life for people with certain types of hearing loss.

Hearing loss, especially in older adults, can have multiple adverse health effects without treatment.

For instance, according to this 2014 report, hearing loss may result in an increased risk of falling, dementia, and reduced cognitive functioning in older adults. Treating hearing loss can however prolong cognitive decline and dementia.

Summary

Medicare Sections A and B as it stands in 2020 will not cover the cost of hearing aids or hearing aid appropriate tests. Nevertheless, legislation could adjust Medicare’s coverage for potential hearing aids.

Most Medicare Advantage programs cover hearing aids and the associated costs thereof.

Leaving untreated hearing loss will result in unforeseen health consequences, such as dementia and increased risk of falling.

People with hearing loss should ask their doctor about hearing tests to determine if the hearing aids will help them.

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