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Medicare Coverage for Hearing Aids 2024: What Is Covered?

Hearing loss is a common condition in the U.S. and becomes increasingly more prevalent as we get older. In fact, more than 37.5 million adult Americans experience hearing loss.

(Getty Images)

Untreated hearing loss doesn’t just cause frustration with daily living. The condition is also connected to hidden health risks, such as falls, cognitive decline, emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

Despite these health risks, fewer than 15% of adults requiring hearing aids use them. Additionally, on average, it takes nearly nine years for individuals to purchase hearing aids after being diagnosed with hearing loss, according to a 2019 study.

“Some older adults may view hearing loss as a normal part of aging and underestimate the importance of hearing health,” says Kathleen Cameron, senior director of the National Council on Aging’s Center for Healthy Aging. “They may not understand the impact of untreated hearing loss on their overall health.”

Getting hearing exams or hearing aids is one of the top five most postponed healthcare expenditures. According to a 2023 survey by the Senior Citizens League, a non-partisan group advocating for seniors, that surveyed 3,890 adults 65 and older, a quarter of respondents delayed getting hearing exams and hearing aids.

Does Medicare Cover Hearing Aids?

Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance), collectively known as Original Medicare, do not cover hearing aids or exams specifically for hearing aids.

What’s covered?

Medicare Part B does cover diagnostic hearing and balance exams if your doctor orders it for potential medical treatment. Part B will cover:

  • Hearing and balance exams.
  • An annual audiology test ordered by your doctor, but not hearing aids.
  • Non-acute hearing conditions (like hearing loss that occurs over many years).
  • Diagnostic services related to hearing loss that’s treated with surgically implanted hearing devices.

“Since Medicare does not cover hearing aids, Medicare-eligible individuals need to find other insurance options through Medicare Advantage plans,” says Mary Johnson, a Medicare policy analyst with the Senior Citizens League in Alexandria, Virginia.

Also known as Medicare Part C, Medicare Advantage plans are private insurance alternatives to original Medicare and may offer additional coverage for hearing – as well as vision and dental – benefits not included in Original Medicare.

Does Medicare Advantage Cover Hearing Aids?

“Some Medicare Advantage plans may cover the cost of hearing exams and hearing aids, but the coverage depends on your medical condition and can vary by state and provider,” says Lise Hamlin, public policy director at the Hearing Loss Association of America in Rockville, Maryland.

The five states that have mandated coverage of hearing aids include:

  • Arkansas.
  • Connecticut.
  • Illinois.
  • New Hampshire.
  • Rhode Island.

Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, Humana and United Healthcare offer certain hearing aid benefits, but the coverage depends on your medical condition and state of residence.

From 2018 to 2020, the percentage of Medicare Advantage plans offering some type of hearing benefit increased from 83% of all plans to 93%, according to a report by the Commonwealth Fund.

Does Medicaid Cover Hearing Aids?

Some people are dual-eligible and qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid, an assistance program administered through states that offers health coverage to those with incomes below a specific threshold, regardless of age.

These individuals are frequently eligible for Medicare, although they are under age 65 because they receive Social Security Disability income. While Medicare is the primary insurance for dual-eligible individuals, Medicaid also provides some financial assistance, as a majority of them have an annual income of less than $20,000.

Medicaid coverage for hearing aids varies by state, and specific coverage details will vary as well. To learn more about what your state covers, check out HLAA’s state-by-state guide.

Navigating Hearing Aid Costs and Savings

Hearing aids can range widely in price, from several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the features and services included. For those without coverage of hearing aids through Medicare Advantage plans, there are other options to explore that might cover some of the costs, including:

  • Private health insurance. Check the details of your plan, but private health insurance may cover hearing tests and costs of hearing aids.
  • Flexible spending accounts (FSA). Pre-tax flexible spending money provided through an employer-sponsored FSA can be used to offset the cost of hearing aids and evaluations.
  • Health savings accounts (HSA). HSAs allow you to contribute funds for medical expenses, such as hearing aids, not covered by Medicare or private insurance.
  • Veterans Administration (VA) benefits. You may be able to access free or low-cost hearing aids if you are a military veteran and qualify for general VA health care.
  • Community-specific resources. Government employees or members of an American Indian or Alaska Native community may also receive access to free or low-cost hearing aids.
  • Charitable foundations. For those with limited income, learn more about the Miracle-Ear Foundation, which provides its hearing aids to individuals who are unable to afford quality hearing devices. Besides an initial $150 non-refundable application fee, services are free. You can learn more about eligibility requirements and find a center in your area at the Miracle-Ear Foundation website.

Online hearing tests

There are several online hearing tests available, including seven that have been reviewed by the National Council on Aging. However, it’s important to note that these tests typically provide only basic screening. They may not uncover potential medical complications or identify underlying hearing issues.

If an online test identifies hearing issues, then follow up with an otolaryngologist or audiologist who are trained professionals in hearing testing and treatment.

How to Choose a Hearing Aid

Talk to your doctor or audiologist about the right hearing aid options that fit your budget and needs. A separate NCOA report reviewed the best hearing aids in certain categories, such as affordability, versatility and best invisible versions.

“When purchasing hearing aids, the device’s cost represents only about one-third of the total price,” Hamlin adds. “The remaining expenses involve services, so it’s important to understand what is included in an offer.”

When you’re ready to choose hearing aids, it’s advisable to read reviews from reliable sources. Prioritize features like:

  • Customer service.
  • Return policies.
  • Warranty coverage for damage and loss.

Alternative Hearing Aid Options

If your hearing loss is mild to moderate, you may want to explore the option of over-the-counter hearing aids.

In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration passed legislation to create a new category of hearing aids that could be sold over the counter without the need for a prescription or professional fitting. This was aimed at increasing access to hearing assistance devices for people age 18 or older with mild to moderate hearing loss.

“These devices are meant to be more accessible and affordable compared to traditional hearing aids, which often require consultation with an audiologist for fitting and adjustments,” Cameron explains.

Some insurers cover OTC hearing aid devices, including:

  • Audien Atom Pro.
  • Eargo.
  • Go Hearing.
  • MDHearing.
  • Otofonix.

Additionally, OTC hearing aids could be an appropriate option if you have limited access to in-person clinics, are relatively tech-savvy and feel comfortable fitting and adjusting your own hearing aids.

When evaluating different options, it’s crucial to consider the comprehensive cost.

“OTC hearing aids provide another pathway to care so some people will treat their hearing loss sooner,” Hamlin emphasizes.

Bottom Line

Some older adults may be wary of buying hearing aids for fear of poor-quality products and aggressive sales techniques, but hearing loss can negatively affect overall health and well-being.

While Medicare may not cover the cost of hearing aids, the majority of Medicare Advantage plans offer hearing exams and hearing aids for seniors. Coverage will vary from plan to plan and state to state so closely examine the plan benefits.

If you have mild to moderate hearing loss, you can also consider OTC hearing aids, which are more affordable.

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Bernard Greenhall
Bernard Greenhall

Bernard is a sports and physical education expert with years of experience. He's passionate about promoting health and wellness through physical activity, and he's worked with athletes and non-athletes alike to help them achieve their fitness goals. Bernard holds a degree in Physical Education and is dedicated to staying up-to-date with the latest trends and research in his field.

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