Should you worry about paying for testing and treatment? This guide will give all the facts about hearing test costs and helpful information about hearing tests, like when, where, and how to check your hearing.
How Much Does a Hearing Test Cost
With insurance, a hearing test costs $60 on average, but the price can vary depending on the clinic, practitioner, and insurance plan. A hearing test could pay you back $250 or more if you pay out of pocket.
Does Insurance Cover Hearing Tests?
Coverage varies greatly among providers, but hearing care is commonly missing in basic insurance policies. It’s often sold separately as an add-on like dental, vision, and other kinds of care that are considered less essential to your core medical needs.
While very few plans offer hearing aid coverage, it’s more common for insurance to cover hearing exams as a preventative measure.
For example, Medicare Part B covers hearing and balance exams, but you need to purchase a Medicare Advantage plan to get help with your hearing aids.
Insurance coverage may also depend on whether the testing is deemed “medically necessary.” A policy might not cover routine hearing exams for a person without noticeable impairment. Still, a test will likely be covered if it’s needed to treat a related condition like a balance disorder.
Some plans may include a routine test at no cost, but a co-pay will likely range from $5 to $75. Check your health insurance company about coverage and approved providers before scheduling a test.
When Should I Get a Hearing Test?
You should get your hearing evaluated if you notice any of the following signs:
- Difficulty hearing and understanding speech, especially with background noise
- Constantly asking others to repeat what they said
- Talking or watching television at a high volume
- Dizziness or balance and coordination problems
- Tinnitus in one or both ears
Contact a hearing care professional immediately when you notice changes in your hearing ability. Untreated hearing loss can contribute to psychological and neurological problems like memory problems, dementia, or depression.
Nearly one-third of people with hearing loss waited more than a decade to seek treatment.
How Often Should I Get a Routine Hearing Test?
Even if you don’t have obvious hearing problems, it’s good to get your hearing checked periodically. The recommended frequency varies according to age.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) suggests a regular hearing test at the following intervals for these age groups:
- Children and teens: Routine hearing screening every few years at school
- Adults (18-40): Every three to five years
- Middle Age (50-65): Every three years
- Seniors (65+): Annually
You should also get an annual hearing test if you have one or more of the following risk factors:
- Frequent exposure to noise or chemicals with known toxic effects on the ear
- Chronic conditions associated with hearing loss, such as diabetes or multiple sclerosis
- Family history of hearing problems or related genetic disorders
- Preexisting hearing loss
How to Get a Hearing Test
To get your hearing tested, you’ll need to set up a hearing test appointment with a licensed audiologist. If you plan to use insurance, check with your provider to find one in your network.
Depending on your plan, you may need a referral from your primary care physician. You can also use the search function on the American Academy of Audiology website.
Low-Cost or Free Hearing Test
The Better Hearing Institute lists several websites that provide free hearing exams. The best online hearing tests typically evaluate your ability to hear tones played at various volumes and frequencies. Most also test your capacity to hear and understand spoken words.
Did you know that Costco members can get a free Costco hearing test?
You can also try the phone-based National Hearing Test developed by the National Institutes of Health and Communication Disorders Technology. It costs $5 on the company’s website, but it’s free if you are a member of AARP. The test correctly identified hearing loss in 80 percent of cases.
Online tests are for informational purposes only. They’re not as thorough or reliable as tests by certified healthcare professionals. For example, the telephone test has a false-positive rate of around 40 percent.
You can think of them as free hearing screenings rather than substitutes for audiological exams. Free tests can help you decide when it’s time to see an audiologist, but you’ll still need a formal medical diagnosis to buy hearing aids or seek other treatment.
What to Expect at Your Hearing Test
A hearing test usually takes about 30 minutes to one hour. Here is what to expect at your audiology exam:
Review of Your Medical History
Before testing, audiologists will ask a few questions about:
- Hearing and balance symptoms
- Medications you are taking
- Chronic health conditions
Depending on your symptoms, a hearing specialist will administer one or more of the following tests:
|Otoscopy||The audiologist will use an instrument with a light and magnifying lens to peek inside your ear canal for signs of obstruction and ear infection.|
|Pure-tone audiometry||The tester uses a generator to play a series of sounds at various frequencies and volumes to determine the softest sound you can hear at each pitch. The results are charted on a graph called an audiogram. The shape establishes the type and severity of the hearing loss.|
|Bone-conduction test||Using a tone generator or a tuning fork, the audiologist plays sounds through the bone and the air to see which sounds loudest to the patient. This is a test of conductive hearing loss.|
|Middle-ear tests||If you are showing signs of conductive hearing loss, you might need additional tests to check the function of your middle ear, like tympanometry and acoustic reflex testing.|
|Speech audiometry||Once your hearing problems are diagnosed, the tester may want to check the impact on your ability to communicate. This is similar to pure-tone testing but uses speech sounds to determine the lowest volume of conversations you can understand instead of tones.|
Hearing Loss Treatment Options
After your hearing test is complete, the audiologist will give you a diagnosis, create a hearing care plan and advise you of your treatment options. The treatment depends on the underlying cause.
Medical or Surgical Treatment
Some forms of hearing loss can be addressed through medication, minimally invasive therapies or surgery. If that’s the case, the audiologist will refer you to a doctor who can:
- Clear out ear wax, foreign objects and other obstructions
- Surgically repair the eardrum, outer ear, ossicles or other malformed structures
- Prescribe medication for infection and inflammation
- Implant a bone-anchored hearing aid or cochlear implant
When the underlying cause of hearing loss is irreversible, your best bet is usually hearing aids.
Moderate hearing loss can be substantially improved with the help of a quality hearing aid.
Hearing aid technology has advanced dramatically in the past few decades. Your hearing aids can be custom programmed based on your hearing test results to boost specific frequencies.
Many hearing aids have Bluetooth functionality to connect with TVs, smartphones and other consumer electronics.
Hearing aids cost anywhere from $1,000 and $6,000. The factors that determine the cost of hearing aids include:
- Number of channels
- Level of technology
Insurance companies don’t consider these devices medically necessary, so check if your carrier offers hearing aid coverage.
If you can’t afford high hearing aid prices, you might consider personal sound amplification products (PSAPs). These devices are available without a hearing test at a fraction of the cost and can help people with mild hearing loss hear sounds clearer.
Remember that hearing aids are a crucial investment, so research well before buying one. Audiologists can advise you about hearing aid prices and features that are most suitable for your type of hearing loss. Some are even licensed to sell hearing aids.
Regular hearing tests are a crucial way to maintain healthy hearing. With insurance, the average audiology test costs $60. If you have to pay the entire cost out of pocket, expect to spend upwards of $250.
Contact your insurance provider before consulting an audiologist to determine if your policy covers hearing aids and exams. Health insurance usually does not cover the cost of hearing aids, but some plans cover hearing tests and trial fittings. You may need to see a primary care physician first to rule out some root causes of hearing loss and get a referral.