Medicare and Hearing Aids
People often take hearing for granted. Many also do not fully appreciate the risks of untreated hearing loss. I was one of them. My husband’s hearing was less than perfect for many years before I finally brought him to Hears to U Audiology in Hopkins, Minnesota. Prior to my connection with Hears to U, I had no idea that hearing aids were not covered by Medicare. I was not alone; many who come to Hears to U Audiology are just as surprised. They should be a covered expense by Medicare as hearing is so important and one of our key senses.
Nicholas Reed agrees. He is a clinical audiologist and assistant professor in the department of epidemiology and core faculty at the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He was interviewed for this article. If you would like to read this article in its entirety, please contact us at Hears to U Audiology.
How significant a change is this? When it comes to hearing, has traditional Medicare covered anything?
Hearing aids have never been covered under Medicare. Currently, Medicare will cover the cost of a hearing test if it is requested by a physician, as part of a general medical exam.
What has been the impetus for making this change?
That may be a bit hard to determine. More and more research is being done everyday. I see that this change fits in well with the public health principles found with the health care system. We are moving away from an acute care model that targets specific conditions, to thinking about how to keep people well. The ability to hear well in a key part of that overall health and wellness. While the details are still being worked out, this could be life-changing for the estimated five million Americans with moderate to severe hearing loss.
How expensive are hearing aids now for those who need them? Do most older people forgo them because they can’t afford them?
While the price can vary, many quote an average of $4700 per pair which also includes the professional services that go along with it (hearing test, fitting services, adjustment, etc). This is the third most expensive item for most over the age of 65, after a home and a car. Plus, they may need to be replaced every five years or so.
What social benefits are likely to come from having enhanced access to hearing benefits that result in improved hearing?
We at Hears to U Audiology have written extensively about the potential risks of untreated hearing loss; including social isolation, depression, communication barriers, and fatigue to name just a few. We agree with Reed and would l ike to see hearing aid covered and more codes to cover the services needed to be successful.
Can having hearing aids improve other health conditions and increase safety?
Yes. Much research has been done in this area. Treating hearing loss can slow the progression of dementia, cognitive decline and depression. It is a sense that provides you with a sense of where you are, so could also help reduce the risk of falling.
Can you describe what this will mean for millions of older Americans with hearing loss?
Yes: transformational. This is a powerful change that will transform their daily lives.