Does Medicare Cover Hearing Aids? – Overview
It’s estimated that hearing loss is prevalent in two-thirds of individuals above 70 years in America. Original Medicare (Part A & B) does not pay for the cost of hearing aids or other related aspects such as checks and fitting hearing aids.
However, Medicare Part B can, to some extent, cover the cost of typical hearing checks when a physician deems it a necessity to have hearing examinations. Also, some Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans cover some hearing aid examinations and devices.
What Are Hearing Aids?
Hearing aids are small electric gadgets that can be customized to cater to various kinds of hearing impairments. Hearing aids are digital devices, and as such, they have a microphone to collect sound and circuitry that processes then amplifies the sound.
Hearing aids also have a speaker that channels sound to the ear and a battery to power the entire setup. Today, the more advanced hearing aids can be connected directly to the neural system or smartphones.
Not everyone experiencing hearing loss can use hearing aids. But studies show only 1 out of 5 people who need hearing aids actually have them. This is because these devices are by no means cheap and need an insurance cover to subsidize the cost.
Why Doesn’t Medicare Cover Hearing Aids?
When the Medicare Act was drafted into law in 1965, it left out the coverage of hearing aids on the basis that hearing aids were cheap and that they were only used occasionally. This meant that Medicare subscribers usually would have to pay the total amount for hearing aids.
At the time, most senior citizens didn’t live as long as they do today, so only a tiny percentage of them had hearing loss caused by old age. There was also very little understanding of how vital hearing loss treatment is in an effort to reduce social anxiety and depression.
However, things are about to change for the better. The Medicare Audiologist Access and Services Act of 2019 is a pending bill that is pushing for the coverage of audiology services and possibly hearing aids by Medicare.
When Do You Know You Need Hearing Aids?
Evident signs that show you might require hearing aids include:
- If at all times you feel as if the people around you are whispering when they aren’t.
- If you have an issue processing group dialogues.
- If you constantly ask people to repeat themselves.
- If you can’t hear a conversation over the phone.
- If you at times hear a hissing or ringing sound in your ears.
- If you have to raise the TV or sound system volume to hear well.
- If you have trouble determining where a particular sound is coming from.
- If you feel stressed or tired after a dialogue.
Normal hearing means that you can perceive sounds less than 25 decibels or a whisper. If the least amount of sound you can perceive is 30 decibels or louder, you could be in dire need of a pair of hearing aids.
Note that hearing aids don’t revert your hearing to normal. Rather they help to intensify sounds and voices in specific pitch ranges. In most instances, you need hearing aids for one ear, but it is not uncommon to find that you need hearing devices for both ears.
Do the Various Parts of Medicare Cover Hearing Aids?
Medicare Part A
Medicare Part A doesn’t pay for hearing exams, hearing device fitting, or the devices themselves. In addition, this plan doesn’t even cover senior citizens who have subscribed to Medicare because of a disability.
So if you subscribe to Medicare Part A and you need hearing aids, you’ll have to pay the total amount for the hearing device and any other expenses related to getting it.
Medicare Part B
Although Medicare Part B doesn’t pay for hearing aids, it pays for hearing checks recommended by a physician who needs to diagnose whether you have a hearing disorder. However, you are still liable to pay 20% of the Medicare-approved expenses.
You will also have to pay the unsettled deductibles on your plan. If you go for a hearing examination in a hospital’s outpatient section, you will have to pay the healthcare provider directly without going through Medicare.
Medicare Part B also pays for BAHA (bone-anchoring hearing aids). Medicare defines BAHA devices as prosthetics rather than hearing aids. BAHAs are surgically installed devices that cater to individuals with various kinds of hearing impairments.
BAHAs function differently compared to typical hearing aids because they convey sound through bone conduction, provoking the cochlea and going around the middle and outer ear. However, these devices could be a suitable option if they can fix your hearing impairment.
Medicare Part C
Medicare Part C or Medicare Advantage is the authorized alternative to Original Medicare (Part A & B). Medicare Part C offers benefits beyond Original Medicare, such as hearing aids, dental, eye checkups, and treatment.
In Fact, in 2021, 88% of Medicare Advantage providers pay for hearing aids. So if you have a Medicare Part C plan from a private insurance provider, a portion of your hearing aids fitting and purchase will be paid for.
However, you need to confirm with your insurance provider’s summary of benefits to see if your specific hearing aid is covered because these plans vary massively in their coverage.
Medicare Part D
Medicare Part D is a non-compulsory benefit plan which usually pays for prescription medication. Just like Medicare Part C, this plan is provided by private companies sanctioned by Medicare. However, Medicare Part D doesn’t pay for hearing aids or hearing checkups.
Do Medicare Supplement Plans Pay for Hearing Aids?
Medicare Supplement Insurance policies, also known as Medigap, do not pay for hearing aids. Instead, they are provided by private insurance companies to help pay for out-of-pocket expenses such as copayments and coinsurance not paid for Medicare Part A & B.
To sum it all up, hearing loss is a condition likely to accelerate as you age, and you might need hearing aids to correct the issue. So when enrolling for Original Medicare, consider all your personal needs to determine whether you’ll need hearing devices in the future.
As for Medicare Advantage Plans, compare various options, and you’ll find a plan that works for you.