Medicare Parts A and B do not cover hearing aids or other related services, such as exams for fitting hearing aids. However, Medicare Part B may cover part of the cost of general hearing exams to aid in medical treatment when the ordering doctor deems it necessary.
Medicare Parts A and B do not cover hearing aids for older adults or people who have Medicare due to a disability.
Many people with hearing loss would benefit from using hearing aids. These devices are vital for the overall well-being of deaf people and individuals with partial hearing loss, for whom they can significantly improve the quality of life.
In this article, we look at which parts of Medicare may cover the costs of hearing loss treatment and diagnosis.
As of 2020, Medicare Parts A and B do not cover hearing aids. This may change, however, due to a government bill that is currently under consideration.
According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, the HR 3 bill that Congress passed in 2019 enables the government to negotiate prescription drug costs. If the Senate passes the bill, the savings from the lower prices will cover hearing care, which might include hearing aids.
However, HR 3 has not yet passed the Senate, and it may not successfully become law.
Another bill called the Medicare Audiologist Access and Services Act of 2019 is also a step in the right direction for coverage of audiology services and, potentially, hearing aids. However, the act has yet to become law, and its fate is unknown.
Legislators and advocacy groups are moving in a positive direction regarding hearing aids. However, it is currently not clear whether Medicare will change its policies and cover these devices in the years to come.
Medicare Part B does not cover hearing aids or exams for a hearing aid fitting. Typically, Medicare Part B covers medically necessary services that treat an active medical condition.
Although Medicare Part B does not cover hearing aids, it does cover hearing exams that a doctor recommends for diagnosing a hearing problem. However, the individual on the policy is still responsible for paying 20% of the cost.
They will also need to pay part of any outstanding deductible on the policy. People who attend a hearing exam in the outpatient department of a hospital will need to cover a co-payment directly to the healthcare provider.
Medicare Part B also covers bone-anchoring hearing aids (BAHA). Medicare classifies the BAHA as a prosthetic device and not a hearing aid.
A BAHA is a surgically implanted device that helps people with certain types of hearing loss. It works differently than traditional hearing aids. A BAHA transmits sound waves through bone conduction, stimulating the cochlea and bypassing the middle and outer ear.
It is important to understand that a BAHA is not the same as a traditional hearing aid. It may be an option for some people with certain types of hearing loss, however.
Medicare Part C, also called Medicare Advantage, is an insurance plan that private insurance companies offer to replace Medicare Parts A and B. However, the cost and coverage vary by plan.
Some Medicare Advantage plans cover hearing aids and the associated costs, such as maintenance.
People who are considering Medicare Advantage should compare the benefits of individual plans before selecting the best option for their needs.
The cost of hearing aids varies. According to a 2015 report by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, the average cost of one hearing aid is about $2,400.
Some people may need two hearing aids, which would put the cost at $4,800.
The high cost of hearing aids may make it difficult for some people to treat their hearing loss. However, these devices can considerably improve the quality of life for people with hearing conditions.
There are many early warning signs of hearing loss. A person might benefit from a 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 deaf people and those with partial hearing loss, and they can make life easier to manage. They are not a cure, though, as they do not address the underlying biological causes.
However, sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is treatable with hearing aids. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, SNHL is the most common form of permanent hearing loss and involves damage to the inner ear.
People who have hearing loss should talk with their doctor. Statistics indicate that it takes people 7 years, on average, to seek treatment for hearing loss, possibly due to high costs and concerns over social stigmas.
Anyone who is putting off learning about hearing aids due to worries that they are too visible should find some comfort in current technological advances. Hearing aids are now smaller and more discreet than ever before.
People who show symptoms of hearing loss should seek an appointment with a doctor for a hearing test. If the doctor finds a problem, they will usually make a referral to a specialist called an ear, nose, and throat doctor, or otolaryngologist.
The specialist will perform additional hearing checks to determine the type and extent of any hearing problems.
According to The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, about 30 million people in the United States live with hearing loss. The Academy also note that an estimated 67–86% of the people aged 50 years and older who could benefit from hearing aids do not use them.
However, hearing aids may improve the quality of life for people who have some forms of hearing loss.
Without treatment, hearing loss may have various adverse health effects, especially in older adults.
For example, according to this research from 2014, hearing loss may lead to an increased risk of falls, dementia, and poor cognitive functioning in older adults. However, treating hearing loss may delay cognitive decline and dementia.
As it stands in 2020, Medicare Parts A and B do not cover the cost of hearing aids or exams for hearing aid fittings. Legislation may change Medicare’s coverage for hearing aids in the future, though.
Some Medicare Advantage plans do cover hearing aids and their associated costs.
Leaving hearing loss untreated may lead to unexpected health consequences, such as dementia and an increased risk of falling.
Individuals with hearing loss should ask their doctor about hearing tests to determine whether they might benefit from hearing aids.
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