Does Medicare Pay for Hearing Aids?

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Some of my patients have told me that the loss of their hearing was actually worse than their loss of mobility. Not hearing family and friends talking, their grandchildren laughing, or even able to hear the news on TV is isolating. It increases the feelings of loneliness and creates embarrassment. Many seniors go to Medicare to help with equipment like this. But, does Medicare pay for hearing aids?  I’m afraid I have bad news… Read on to learn what to do about it.

Medicare Coverage Criteria

Explaining what Medicare pays for and how they do is a long, confusing subject. I try daily to explain this to my patients. But, honestly, it doesn’t always make sense.

Medicare’s main decision making factor is “Medical Necessity.” The Medicare definition of medical necessity is:

Services or supplies that are needed to diagnose or treat your medical condition and that meet accepted standards of medical practice.

Here is where it gets difficult though. Medicare makes a very UNCLEAR difference between medically necessary and convenient. And hearing aids are a great example of this.

You and I probably consider hearing loss a medical issue. However, Medicare does not because hearing loss, especially age-related hearing loss, does not affect the person’s medical health. It is more of an inconvenience than a medical issue. (Don’t shoot the messenger!)

Medicare Coverage of Hearing Aids

So, NO, Medicare does not pay for hearing aids. BUT, some of the Medicare replacement and supplemental policies do.

Get your insurance cards out of your purse or wallet. If the only Medicare insurance card you have is the paper red, white, and blue card, you probably only have what is called “straight Medicare.” This is the plan (Part B) that will not pay for hearing aids.

Do you have another card for Humana, Aetna, or another big insurance company? Maybe one that says “Medicare Advantage” or “Medicare PPO” or something like that? If so, you have a supplemental or replacement plan. This might be good news. Some of these plans cover items that straight Medicare does not, like hearing aids.

If you think you have one of these plans, flip your card over and call the number on the back. They will be able to tell you if your plan covers hearing aids.

However, if a hearing aid is covered, often the payment is less than the hearing aid costs. You will have to pay something for the hearing aid.

man holding up a hearing aidOther Ways to Pay for Hearing Aids

There may be other sources of funds for paying for hearing aids. The AARP offers these suggestions:

  • Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) and Health Savings Accounts (HSA). If you have an FSA or HSA account from employers insurance or a private plan, these funds will pay for hearing aids and batteries.
  • Medicaid Plans. Some state Medicaid plans will cover hearing aids but they are few and far between.
  • Veterans Benefits. The VA will pay for a hearing aid if the hearing loss is tied to the vet’s military service.
  • Private Insurance. Most plans do not cover hearing aids but three states do have mandated coverage. So, congrats to New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Arkansas. Of course, health coverage is changing on a daily basis right now so check your plan for an update. Also, some state managed Obama-care plans cover hearing aids.
  • Nonprofits. There are several nonprofit organizations that run hearing aid recycling programs. Others assist with hearing aid purchases. Check with your local Lion’s club organization.

Alternatives to Hearing Aids

If your hearing loss is in the early stages, there may be alternatives to buying a hearing aid. At least on a temporary basis. These hearing aid alternatives also help with certain types of hearing difficulty. Like hearing soft voices or using a telephone.

There are hearing aid-like devices called amplifiers that are much less than hearing aids. Special amplifiers for telephones boost the volume of the ringer and the receiver. Some telephones have these boosters built-in. No one will even know you are using it!

Products like these are not the long-term solution. But, they will help in the meantime. And, give you time to save up some money or find another method of paying for them.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Does Medicare pay for hearing aids? Unfortunately, no. But, you may get one covered with certain Medicare supplements or replacement plans. But, even these plans won’t pay the total cost. There are also organizations and other methods of paying for a hearing aid.

Sometimes, an alternative device can help in the early stages of hearing loss. Hearing amplifiers that are worn in the ear or attach to a telephone can improve the quality of life for a senior with hearing difficulty.

Let me know any experience you have dealing with hearing aid purchases? Do you have another funding source to suggest? Leave a comment below!

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