Does Medicare Cover Hearing Aids?
Many Medicare beneficiaries age 65 and older may experience hearing loss. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), age is the strongest predictor of hearing loss among adults age 20-69, with the greatest amount of hearing loss occurring in the 60 to 69 age group. The same source states that about 28.8 million U.S. Adults could benefit from using a hearing aid. According to NIH, only about one in five people who would benefit from using a hearing aid actually uses one.
An obstacle to some people using hearing aids may be cost. According to the Mayo Clinic, hearing aids can start at $1,500 and go to several thousand dollars. Style and features affect cost of a hearing aid.
Neglecting your hearing may have serious consequences. People who have difficulty hearing may withdraw socially and social engagement is one of the activities that protects brain health, according to the Cleveland Clinic. In fact, hearing loss can increase risk of cognitive issues, including dementia, reports the Cleveland Clinic.
How do hearing aids work?
A hearing aid magnifies sound vibrations entering the ear, according to the NIH. A hearing aid has a microphone, which receives sound; an amplifier, which increases the power of the signals; and a speaker, which sends the amplified sound to the ear. There are various styles of hearing aids. Some can be worn behind the ear, in the ear, in the ear canal, and completely in the ear canal.
Does Medicare cover hearing aids: Original Medicare
Original Medicare is administered by the federal government and includes Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance). Original Medicare generally does not cover hearing aids, hearing exams, or exams for fitting hearing aids. The only hearing-related care that Original Medicare generally covers is diagnostic hearing and balance exams. Part B may cover 80% of allowable charges for these tests (after any applicable deductible).
If you are covered by Original Medicare, you may have to pay 100% out-of-pocket for hearing aids and routine hearing exams. You may also contact the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) Information Clearinghouse for information about organizations that offer financial assistance for hearing aids. You can call (800) 241-1044 or TTY (800) 241-1055 Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. eastern time.
Does Medicare cover hearing aids: Medicare Advantage
Medicare Advantage is another way to get your Medicare Part A and Part B benefits from a private insurance company contracted with Medicare. Medicare Advantage plans must offer everything Original Medicare offers (with the exception of hospice care which is still covered by Part A). The benefit of a Medicare Advantage plan is it may offer coverage beyond what Original Medicare covers including prescription drugs, routine vision (including eyeglasses) and routine hearing (in some cases including hearing aids). Medicare Advantage plans may also cover routine hearing exams and fitting/evaluation for hearing aids. When you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan that covers hearing aids, you may have to pay a monthly premium in addition to your Medicare Part B premium. You may also need to see a doctor or audiologist in the plan’s network.