Hearing aids have helped millions of people raise their quality of life.
These small amplification devices can help enhance a person’s hearing and speech comprehension.
But high-quality ear hearing aids also come with a hefty price tag.
This shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Millions of dollars are spent on research that goes into technology advancements and manufacturing.
The goal is better-performing devices.
However, that still may not bring peace of mind to your wallet.
Due to these high price tags, the question arises for many — does healthcare insurance cover the cost of hearing aids?
In this article, we examine the ins and outs of purchasing hearing aids, exploring whether or not insurance coverage and financial assistance are viable options.
How Common Is Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss affects millions of people around the world.
According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, roughly 48 million Americans live with some hearing loss.
Furthermore, hearing health statistics state that around 25 million people in the United States have experienced tinnitus, which is a precursor to hearing loss.
These statistics conclude that nearly 29 million adults in the United States could benefit from hearing aids. Sadly, most people wait an average of seven years before seeking treatment.
High costs and lack of hearing aid coverage among many insurance plans contribute to why people hesitate to seek help.
How Much Do Hearing Aids Cost?
Hearing aids have proven to be effective treatments for hearing loss.
But hearing aids are also one of the priciest medical devices around. Unfortunately, the cost is one factor that keeps many people from receiving help and relief from their hearing loss.
On average, hearing aid costs for an adult are around $2,000 to $3,000.
They can be as low as $1,000, while premium hearing aids can be as high as $5,000. Of course, prices depend on quality, features, and capabilities.
Many like to break down costs in terms of cost per year or month. Many hearing aids have an average lifespan of eight years. For example, if premium hearing aids cost $5,000, that’s $625 a year or around $52 a month.
While those prices might seem more palatable, it doesn’t negate the high upfront costs.
Bundling Services for Hearing Aid Purchases
Often, hearing aids are sold within bundled services. For example, many hearing aid purchases include consultations, hearing tests, custom fittings by an audiologist, follow-up adjustments, and more. Unbundled services would include the hearing aid cost only.
Does Healthcare Insurance Cover Hearing Aids?
Unfortunately, most insurance companies, including private insurance companies, do not cover the cost of hearing aids.
They are considered elective. Hearing aids are one of the few medical devices not covered by medical insurance.
While there is no coverage of hearing aids under most insurance providers, some insurers offer optional insurance policy plans for hearing health care.
These work similarly to optional vision and dental health plans, usually only covering the costs of healing tests or fittings.
This would not be the full cost of hearing aids.
In most cases, those who cannot afford hearing aids outright must explore different financing options. These often come in the form of charitable organizations or third-party creditors.
Insurance Mandates in Different States
Provisions for hearing aids also vary from state to state. For example, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) reports that 25 states do have provisions for mandated hearing aid benefits. However, many only apply to pediatric hearing aids.
Per ASHA, states that require health insurance companies to carry health benefits for children’s hearing aids include:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
States in which health insurance covers hearing aids for adults and children include Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.
Wisconsin requires hearing health coverage for pediatric hearing aids and pediatric cochlear implants.
While many of these states have provisions to help cover the cost of hearing aids, the actual requirements vary. For example, each state has requirements for provider qualifications, amount of coverage, the ages covered, and the benefit period.
Does My Insurance Cover Hearing Aids?
As stated above, most insurance companies do not cover the full cost of hearing aids. However, actual stipulations and provisions will vary by provider.
The only way to know for sure is by becoming familiar with your own insurance plan.
Some insurance companies have health plans offering specific amounts for hearing aid purchases. Typically, these only cover a portion of the cost and renew every few years.
Other insurance plans may have special contracts with certain hearing aid providers and offer negotiated discount rates. The only way to know is by reaching out to your insurance provider. Most have their toll-free number listed on the insurance card.
Questions to ask your insurance provider could include:
- Are there any provisions to cover the costs, or part of the costs, of hearing aids?
- Do I pay the full amount up front if there is partial coverage or health benefits in place? Is it billed directly to the health plan? What are the steps for reimbursement?
- Do I have to purchase through specific hearing aid providers?
- Are there any criteria to meet for coverage (e.g., deductible to be met, a certain degree of hearing loss to qualify, proof of hearing screening test, etc.)?
Do Medicaid and Medicare Cover Hearing Aids?
There are some cases where federal health insurance plans may have hearing health and hearing aid provisions.
However, many hearing aid providers will not accept plans like Medicaid and Medicare due to low reimbursement rates.
Medicaid coverage and eligibility for hearing aid vary by state. Most states are required to provide hearing services for Medicaid beneficiaries under the age of 21 with hearing needs per the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment Program, or EPSDT.
Services under this program include audiological assessments, hearing evaluations by audiology professionals, and hearing aid services, which include hearing devices and accessories.
Medicaid coverage for those 21 and older with hearing impairments vary from state to state. For more information, it is best to contact your state’s Medicaid website.
Per the Medicare website, Medicare does not cover hearing aids, hearing exams, or fittings for hearing aids. However, some hearing health options exist for those with the Medicare Advantage Plan, specifically Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C).
Other Options for Getting Hearing Aids
Department of Veteran Affairs (VA)
The VA is one of the largest purchasers of hearing aids. Veterans qualify for hearing-related benefits like hearing aids. It’s best to consult your local VA center to ensure coverage and provisions.
Vocational Rehabilitation Programs
Some state vocational rehabilitation programs offer assistance for those looking to purchase hearing aids because they are required for employment. Each state has provisions for vocational rehabilitation programs in place.
Certain programs offer discounts when purchasing hearing aids. For example, certain memberships (e.g., AAA or union affiliations) may have negotiated discounts with certain hearing providers.
Other discounts may be available for government employees through the Federal Employee Health Plan (FEHB).
Financing Your Hearing Aids
Financing is always an option for those looking to purchase hearing aids.
Programs like CareCredit offer financing options with no upfront costs for purchasing medical devices like hearing aids. They offer monthly payment options.
Over-the-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aids
On August 16, 2022, the FDA finally revealed rules regarding the sale of OTC hearing aids. Once these OTC hearing aid options hit the shelves, they will provide an accessible and affordable option for many people.
The Bottom Line
Hearing aids have helped millions regain confidence and improve their quality of life. Unfortunately, they also come at a high cost.
While most insurance providers do not provide full coverage for hearing aids, there are options to explore, from state-mandated hearing health benefits to finance options.
If you have questions about hearing aid coverage, you should consult your insurance provider for specific details.
Check out the USA Rx Hearing Loss Blog for more information on hearing loss, treatments, and more.