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Hearing Aids & Medicare: What Seniors Should Know

Does medicare cover hearing aids?

It is a question older adults and family caregivers frequently ask. We know the risk for hearing problems increases with aging. As many as one in three people over the age of 65 and half of those over the age of 75 live with some type of hearing loss. According to AARP, the cost of hearing aids averages around $4,200 per ear. That number makes it easy to see why the issue of hearing aids is such a concern. Unfortunately, hearing aids are not covered by a senior’s Medicare benefit. In some instances, however, Medicare Part B will pay for a diagnostic hearing exam.

Medicare and Hearing Exams

If your physician believes you have a health condition that requires a diagnostic hearing exam, Medicare will pay for a portion of the testing. You will be responsible for 20% of the physician’s services for the exam and for your Medicare Part B deductible if it hasn’t been met for the year.

By contrast if your physician recommends a routine hearing test, you will be responsible for 100% of the expenses associated with it. The same is true for hearing aid expenses and for any appointments necessary for fitting you for one. 

How to Detect Hearing Loss

Because hearing impairments like Presbycusis, a common type of hearing loss among seniors, occurs so gradually it isn’t unusual for someone living with it not to realize they have a problem. A few warning signs that might indicate you or a loved one might need a hearing evaluation can include:

  • Problems hearing women and children when they are speaking. Because both typically have higher voices, it can be more difficult to hear them if you have hearing loss.
  • Turning the volume on the television or radio up to a level that makes others in the household complain about how loud it is.
  • Trouble following conversations when more than one person is talking or when there is background noise.
  • Frequently needing to ask people to repeat themselves and to think that everyone around you is mumbling.

Protecting a Senior from Hearing Aid Scams

Because Medicare doesn’t cover hearing aids, financing one can be difficult for seniors on a fixed income. It makes them more vulnerable to scams. It isn’t uncommon for scammers to target neighborhoods where the population of seniors is high. They go door-to-door selling low quality hearing aids to unsuspecting older adults. Even legitimate-looking stores may sell a substandard product. 

To protect yourself or your aging loved one, here are a few factors to consider when purchasing a hearing aid:

  • Hearing aids are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They must meet certain standards for safety, quality and medical necessity. Make sure any hearing aid you invest in is one that is FDA approved.
  • An audiologist and a hearing aid dispenser are the only two groups of professionals authorized to measure, fit and sell hearing aids in the U.S.
  • One rule the FDA enacted to protect older adults requires everyone who purchases a hearing aid to first have a medical examination. It helps to eliminate underlying health conditions as the cause of the hearing loss.
  • Be certain to ask about the length and terms of the warranty as well as what maintenance costs are included. Get that information in writing before making a purchase.
  • Make sure you understand how long the adjustment period is for the hearing aid. You want to be certain you aren’t charged additional service fees if the product doesn’t work for you.
  • Also find out what the return policy is. Most states have laws that protect buyers who make a hearing aid purchase in a store or physician office, as well as in their own home. The Hearing Loss Association of America maintains a list of laws by state to make it easier for seniors to understand their rights.

To learn more, check out information from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Buying a Hearing Aid. . They have information and resources that will help you better understand what questions to ask and how to find a reputable vendor to make your purchase.