Hearing loss is a significant issue that many people will encounter as they age. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 26.8% of people over the age of 65 have some difficulty hearing.
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has found that 2% of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss. That rate increases to 8.5% between ages 55 to 64, 25% between the ages of 65 and 74, and by the time you reach age 75, the odds of having disabling hearing loss are 50%.
Luckily, most hearing loss due to aging can be improved with the use of hearing aids, but does Medicare cover those costs?
Does Medicare Advantage Cover Hearing Aids?
The limited coverage of Medicare Parts A and B is why many people opt for additional coverage or supplemental coverage to their Medicare insurance. One very popular option is Medicare Part C, which is also called Medicare Advantage.
Medicare Advantage is private insurance that is contracted through the federal government, so you’ll find many differences among the policies available, though there is a basic coverage package. Spend some time going over the different plans and what they offer. If hearing loss is a concern for you, look for a plan that has a low co-pay and deductible for hearing aids. Some policies will cover all of these charges and others will only cover a small amount, leaving you with the majority of the expense.
Hearing exams and hearing aids fall under the non-Medicare covered items in a Medicare Advantage program. While you may find that your Advantage plan has approved providers and models of hearing aids, your amount of coverage will depend on whether you stick to the approved list or stray from that list with unapproved care. Prior authorization may also be required for coverage so it’s best to understand what your policy offers and follow their guidelines for maximum coverage.
Each year there is a Medicare Open Enrollment period from October 15 to December 7, during that time anyone with original Medicare can switch to a Medicare Advantage program. Then, from January 1 to March 31, there is an open enrollment period for Medicare Advantage, which allows people with one Advantage program to switch to another one.
Updates to Medicare Hearing Aid Coverage
Changes are being considered regarding Medicare coverage in regard to future hearing aid coverage with the Medicare Hearing Aid Coverage Act of 2021. Right now, it’s looking pretty good for the expansion of Medicare and the inclusion of hearing aids and hearing tests within the Build Back Better Act, but there may be some changes along the way.
If you stay on top of this information and the new legal implications for your Medicare Part A and Part B coverage as well as Medicare Advantage, you may be able to get additional coverage and support for hearing-related expenses. This is quite possibly a turning point that will allow for expanded coverage in the near future.
What Do Hearing Aids Cost?
If you’re paying for hearing aids yourself, there is a wide price range, from around $1000 on the low end to $8000 for premium devices. That means that having two of them could become costly, and these estimates do not include follow-up appointments, cleanings, and battery replacement.
Current coverage through Medicare Advantage programs varies, so your out-of-pocket expenses can be anywhere from nothing to several thousand dollars. This is why understanding the policy you have is critical to getting the coverage you need.
Future expansion of coverage under Medicare will still have limits on how much coverage will be provided for your hearing exam, the hearing aids themselves, the upkeep and routine maintenance, and how frequently you can purchase new hearing aids.