What is hearing loss?
Hearing loss is a medical condition associated with the ear that makes it difficult to hear or understand sounds. Hearing loss affects 26 million people between the ages of 20-69 in the United States. Hearing loss is attributed to a problem with the ear, the nerves coming from the ear, or the hearing part of the brain. It is possible to be born with a hearing impairment, although hearing loss usually occurs gradually through aging. Hearing loss can be due to genetic factors, birth defects, infections, or medicinal side effects.
Who is at risk?
As of 2022, a reported 22 million U.S. workers are exposed to hazardous noise, annually. A reported 40-50% of people between 12-35 are potentially exposed to unsafe noise from personal listening devices and damaging levels of sound at entertainment venues. Musicians are 400% more likely to have hearing loss and 57% more likely to have tinnitus (a constant ringing in the ears) than the general public.
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What is a hearing aid?
A hearing aid is an electronic device that fits in or behind the ear and is used to improve hearing. Hearing aids have proven to be significantly beneficial to individuals with hearing loss. Around 80% of hearing loss cases can be treated with hearing aids, but only one in four individuals who could benefit from hearing aids use them. Hearing aid usage is reported to offset cognitive decline from untreated hearing loss. Older adults who use hearing aids show reduced depression symptoms and improved quality of life. The risk of dementia may be up to five times greater and the risk of falling three times greater among people with untreated hearing loss.
How much is a hearing aid?
A hearing aid can cost over $2,000 in the United States. Added features and services can increase the price.
Are hearing aids covered by private insurance?
Some states require that private insurance companies cover hearing aids for children (Appendix A). Some states require private insurance companies to cover hearing aids for people of all ages (Appendix B). Private insurance may pay for hearing tests and hearing aid evaluations. Some private health plans have add-ons that cover hearing aids. Specialty hearing aid insurance is becoming common in the marketplace.
Insurers sometimes offer optional hearing/vision/dental plans that may include coverage for hearing tests and hearing aid fittings. Most health insurers do not provide coverage for hearing aids. It is important to be intimately familiar with your individual health insurance plan. If covered, insurance coverage for hearing aids varies.
How much will insurance cover for the cost of a hearing aid?
Insurance may cover a specified amount toward the purchase of hearing aids. This could be for the entire purchase, or a certain amount may be allowed per ear. Insurance may offer an allowance toward hearing aids if you purchase from a contracted provider. An allowance is a specified amount that is subtracted from the total purchase price. Insurance may have negotiated discounts with contracted providers. This means that you must purchase from a specific provider in order to get a specific discount off the retail price. Each plan is different and hearing aid coverage could vary by geographic location.
Are hearing aids covered by Medicare?
Medicare does not cover hearing aids or hearing aid evaluations. There may be options depending on the type of hearing loss and if you purchased a Medicare Advantage Plan. Medicare Part B does pay for doctor-ordered diagnostic hearing tests.
Are hearing aids covered by Medicaid?
All Medicaid plans cover hearing aids for children. Many Medicaid plans cover hearing aids for adults. Medicaid coverage for adults varies by state and eligibility is subject to change.
Are there any other options to help cover hearing aid costs?
Find out if you are eligible for the Federal Employee Health Benefit Program through Blue Cross Blue Shield (BC/BS), they cover up to $2,500 for hearing aids every three years. Check with your insurance provider to determine if you qualify for a hearing aid benefit.
Often healthcare systems, teacher retirement groups, city and state government employee groups and other large employers will coordinate with a network of preferred providers to offer discounts or services.
The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) is the largest purchaser and provider of hearing aids in the United States. Veterans should check with their local VA to see whether you qualify for benefit and hearing-related services, including the provision of hearing aids.
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Hearing is a critical aspect of life that is often underappreciated and abused. Many people listen to their music at full volume with no regard for their precious, sensitive eardrums. Ironically enough, loud volumes can damage the ear, making it even more difficult to hear than before. It is important to have your hearing checked and to make sure you listen to music at a reasonable level. Hearing loss is affecting people of all ages. It is never too early to get an evaluation.
The following states require that private insurance plans pay for children hearing aid coverage:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
The following states require private insurance to cover hearing aids for people of all ages:
- New Hampshire
- Rhode Island
- Does Insurance Cover Hearing Aids? (webmd.com)
- Sources of financial aid and insurance for hearing aids (healthyhearing.com)
- How Many People Use Hearing Aids – HealthyHearingClub.net
- Hearing Impairment: The Different Levels of Hearing Loss | Clinique auditive Bouchard Tremblay
- Tinnitus: Symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatments (msn.com)
- Hearing Aids: The Different Types & How They Work (webmd.com)