The cost of hearing aids and tests can be high—especially for retirees living on a fixed income. A pair of medical-grade hearing aids will set you back at least $2,000, while a high-end pair can cost as much as $5,000.
One in four Americans over the retirement age have hearing loss. If you’re one of them, you might be asking: Does Medicare cover hearing aids? We’ll discuss all the details and which plan you should get.
Will Medicare Pay for My Hearing Aids?
According to their website, basic Medicare does not cover hearing aids or the exams you’ll need to be fitted for a hearing aid.
When the original Medicare bill passed in 1965, people didn’t live as long, and age-related hearing loss wasn’t as common, so hearing aids were excluded.
In recent years, legislators have attempted to include hearing aids in the scope of traditional Medicare, and it may be added soon.
In the meantime, Medicare beneficiaries can get coverage for hearing, dental care and vision through supplemental Medicare Advantage plans.
What Medicare Plans Cover Hearing?
Let’s look at the different Medicare parts and what kind of hearing care they provide.
Medicare Part A
Medicare Part A is the original Medicare.
It covers hospital insurance. It covers home health services as well as stays in hospitals, nursing homes, and hospices, but it doesn’t cover hearing.
Medicare Part B
Medicare Part B is medical insurance. It covers only medically necessary and preventative measures. This includes but is not limited to:
- Ambulance services
- Medical equipment
- Outpatient services
- Pre-surgical visits
- Partial hospitalization and medical treatment for mental health
- Inpatient visits
- Certain prescription medications
While it doesn’t cover hearing aids or fitting tests, Medicare Part B does cover diagnostic hearing exams that your health care provider orders.
Medicare Part C: Medicare Advantage
Medicare Advantage plans comprise Medicare Part C. Medicare Advantage plans are collaborations between a private insurance company and Medicare. They give you the benefits of the original Medicare parts plus some additional coverage.
Depending on the provider, this can include hearing care, vision, dental care, and medications. Many Medicare Advantage plans cover hearing tests, hearing aids, and balance exams.
Check with your Medicare Advantage provider to see what they cover.
Medicare Part D
Medicare Part D includes prescription drugs and is provided by private insurance companies. However, it doesn’t provide hearing benefits.
Medigap plans are supplemental insurance that fills the gaps not covered by the original Medicare program. Private companies offer Medicare supplement insurance plans to cover certain services that are not part of A or B plans.
Medigap plans can help reduce out-of-pocket costs, like copays and deductibles, but they don’t cover hearing.
Which Medicare is best for you?
If you’re enrolling for the first time and are experiencing hearing loss, Medicare Part C coverage is probably your best bet. Several Medicare Advantage plans cover hearing aids and hearing services.
What’s the Cost with Medicare?
You might be wondering if it’s worth the money to pay for a Medicare Advantage plan. It depends on the plan provider and your needs. There’s a great deal of variation from person to person in terms of:
- Monthly premiums
- Coverage limits
These factors will affect what percentage of the cost of hearing aids will be absorbed by your plan. A licensed insurance agent can help you compare plans. In the end, it might make more sense for you to pay for the devices out of pocket.
Ask your insurance company about hearing aid coverage and cost while factoring in the expense of hearing exams, audiological assessments, and fitting appointments. Check for coverage of those as well.
What Does Hearing Aid Coverage Include?
Hearing Aid coverage differs from plan to plan and from one provider to another. Many Medicare Advantage plans cover not only hearing aids but also:
The coverage will likely involve a copayment or coinsurance. It could also be allowance-based.
What Does Hearing Aid Coverage Cost?
In Medicare Advantage plans, there are no extra surcharges or payments. These plans are often available with $0 premiums.
How to Apply for Medicare Plans That Cover Hearing Aids
You can sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan as soon as you’re eligible for Medicare.
If you’ve already signed up for one, you’ll need to switch to a Medicare Advantage plan that includes hearing aid coverage during the enrollment period, from Jan. 1 to March 31 annually.
A licensed insurance agent will need the Medicare number and date of coverage. This data is on your Medicare card. The agent will help you review which plans have the best hearing aid coverage or benefits for hearing.
Curious which insurance companies accept Medicare coverage for hearing aids? Read our article on Does Blue Cross Blue Shield Cover Hearing Aids to find out more!
You can also use Medicare’s Plan Finder, a mobile-friendly app to compare plans and shop according to your needs. This online tool includes costs and drug prices.
You can even compare up to five pharmacies to find the one with the lowest price. It has filters that allow you to choose a plan type based on your specific needs, like hearing aid or insulin coverage, etc.
If you can’t afford a Medicare Advantage plan that covers your hearing aids, you might qualify for other federal, state and local programs.
Medicaid coverage differs based on age and state. Children on Medicaid can easily get hearing aids covered irrespective of state, but it varies for adults. You can check this state list to determine if your state’s federal health insurance program covers hearing aids and hearing assessments.
Hearing loss is a common condition for veterans because military personnel are frequently exposed to loud noise.
If you qualify for benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), you may be eligible for free exams, fittings and fully paid-for hearing aids.
The VA offers two main services for hearing impairment. The first is free or low-cost hearing care through VA health benefits. You may also qualify for tax-free payments through VA disability compensation every month.
However, not all veterans will receive cost-free hearing aids.
This is reserved for veterans who:
- Have a disability connected to their service
- Were prisoners of war
- Received a Purple Heart
- Are entitled to benefits under 38 U.S.C. 1151
- Are house-bound or receive increased pensions based on need
- Have a hearing impairment due to another medical condition
- Experience severe cognitive or functional deficits
- Require hearing aids to participate in treatment
If your income is low enough, you might be able to get hearing aids through a national, state or local non-profit. These foundations raise money to purchase hearing aids in bulk or refurbish donated hearing aids and reuse them.
Non-profits that provide financial assistance and free hearing aids for those who qualify:
- Lions Club International
- Miracle-Ear Foundation
- Hearing Loss Association of America.
The eligibility criteria vary, but each nonprofit generally requires you to be below an income threshold—usually defined as a percentage below the federal poverty line—and exhaust all other possible alternatives for buying your hearing aids.
Personal Sound Amplification Products
If your hearing problems are mild, you may try a commercial hearing aid alternative that you can purchase without tests or extra appointments needed for fitting hearing aids. Due to FDA guidelines, these can’t be marketed as hearing aids, so they’re called personal sound amplification products or PSAPs.
At the lower end, these cost around $250, which is a fraction of what medical-grade hearing aids will run you.
However, they might not be adequate if your hearing problem is severe. You can talk to an audiologist or other health care provider to see if they might work for you.
While traditional Medicare covers diagnostic hearing exams and other essential health care, that, unfortunately, doesn’t include hearing aids. For that, you’ll need supplemental Medicare coverage from a private provider through a Medicare Advantage plan.
If you are extremely low income and other options are out of reach, you can consult your state’s Medicaid requirements to see if you qualify. You can also reach out to a non-profit for financial assistance or donated hearing aids. Lastly, if your hearing problems aren’t severe, you might want to try a personal sound amplification device.