Does Medicare Pay for Hearing Aids If They’re Recommended by a Doctor?

  • November 13, 2020
Does Medicare Pay for Hearing Aids If They’re Recommended by a Doctor?

It’s a common question: does Medicare pay for hearing aids? As a national insurance plan for retirees, many people who are on Medicare would benefit from hearing aids. Medicare Part B, which is the medical insurance side of the Medicare program, covers balance exams and diagnostic hearing tests, but it does not cover hearing aids themselves.

If your doctor orders a diagnostic hearing test for a medical need, you will pay for the Medicare Part B deductible, plus 20% of the amount approved by Medicare, if your doctor participates in the Medicare program. If your doctor does not participate in the Medicare program, you may have to pay all of the costs of the hearing tests as well.

Are There Any Medicare Plans that Pay for Hearing Aids?

Some Medicare Advantage plans (Medicare Part C) do cover the cost of hearing aids. Medicare Advantage plans also typically cover routine hearing exams. Not all Medicare Advantage plans pay for the same things, so if you’re aware that you will need hearing aids and you’re choosing a Medicare Advantage plan, read the fine print to decide which type of plan is the best one for you. Medicare Advantage provides an online plan comparison tool that can help.

If your Medicare Advantage plan does allow you to get hearing aids, be sure to familiarize yourself with your plan’s instructions for getting an exam and a hearing aid, to avoid unnecessary out-of-pocket costs.

I’m Buying a Hearing Aid, What Should I Know?

Buying a hearing aid can be intimidating the first time you have to do it, but after you’ve gone through the process once, it becomes a little easier. Knowing the various parts of the process can help you choose the best hearing aid for your medical needs.

Paying for a Hearing Aid or Hearing Aids

Some hearing aids can cost thousands of dollars each. Health insurance, like Medicare Advantage, may pay for your hearing aid, but may also require you to buy a hearing aid through a specific provider, or may require you to purchase a specific type of hearing aid. Be sure to read the fine print and confirm with your insurance company before purchasing a hearing aid. If you’re going to have to pay for the hearing aid on your own, ask your audiologist which brand and type of hearing aid will work with your budget and hearing needs.  

Factors that can affect the cost of your hearing aid include:

  • Noise reduction features
  • Remote controls
  • Wireless connectivity
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • Variable programming
  • Telecoils
  • Environmental noise control
  • Directional microphones
  • Synchronization

Some states have benefits that pay for hearing aid devices for qualified residents. You can find out what your state offers through the Hearing Loss Association of America website, where you’ll find state-specific information about hearing aid devices and covered expenses. If you’re a veteran, the Veterans Administration may also pay for your hearing aid. Check with the VA to find out more about your benefits.

Choosing a Hearing Aid Style & Brand

It’s tempting to make financial considerations the primary factor when choosing a hearing aid, but there are many things to consider when you’re trying to make this kind of purchase. Hearing aids vary by type. Smaller hearing aids are in high demand, but don’t always have the power of the larger hearing aids. Below are some of the most common type of hearing aids:

  • Completely-In-The-Canal (CIC): Molded to fit inside the ear but are only effective for improving hearing in adults with mild or moderate hearing loss.
  • In-The-Canal (ITC): Fits partly in the ear canal and improves hearing in adults with mild to moderate hearing loss.
  • In-The-Ear (ITE): Fits inside the bowl-shaped area of the ear. ITE hearing aids can help with moderate to severe hearing loss.
  • Behind-The-Ear (BTE): Hooks over the back of the ear and connects to an earpiece that fits in the ear. These hearing aids can be helpful for people of all ages and with hearing loss of varying levels of severity.

Behind-The-Ear (BTE) hearing aids tend to be larger, have longer battery life and are easier to control, with more features. Smaller hearing aids aren’t always able to minimize some types of background noise. They also tend to have tiny batteries that don’t last as long. Do your research before choosing the type of hearing aid for you.

Hearing aids that sit inside the ear can be damaged by earwax, so if your body secretes a lot of earwax, this type of hearing aid may not be for you. It’s also important to consider your own dexterity when trying to choose a hearing aid. Arthritis can affect your ability to insert, remove or manage small hearing aids.

Warranty and Trial Period

Hearing aids are a very personal device, and what works for one person may not work for another. To ensure that you get the right hearing aid for your medical and personal needs, many types of hearing aid companies and local audiologists offer trial periods. Find out what the trial period is for your preferred hearing aid type. Read the warranty on your device to ensure that the hearing aid you’d like to purchase is properly protected. A fair warranty will cover parts and labor for a period of time.

Consider the Future

If you have a degenerative condition and expect your hearing to deteriorate in the future, consider the power of each hearing aid before making a purchase. Just because your hearing aid is powerful enough now does not mean it will continue to meet your needs in the future. Consult with your audiologist to find a hearing aid that has long-term viability.

See an Audiologist First

Before you can get a hearing aid, whether through Medicare Advantage or purchased out of pocket, see an audiologist. It is best to purchase your hearing aids through an audiologist to ensure a proper match and continued hearing aid maintenance. Your audiologist can provide you with a proper diagnosis, treatment recommendations and advice to purchase a hearing aid, if a hearing aid would be beneficial.

Sources

1. Healthy Hearing, Medicare Coverage and Hearing Aids – https://www.healthyhearing.com/help/hearing-aids/medicare-cover#:~:text=%22Medicare%20doesn’t%20cover%20hearing,vision%2C%20hearing%2C%20or%20dental.

2. Medicare.gov, Hearing & Balance Exams – https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/hearing-balance-exams

3. eHealth Medicare, Does Medicare Cover Hearing Aids? – https://www.ehealthmedicare.com/medicare-coverage-articles/medicare-hearing-aids/

4. Harvard Health Publishing, 7 Tips for Buying a Hearing Aid – https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/7-tips-for-buying-a-hearing-aid

5. Mayo Clinic, Hearing Aids: How to Choose the Right One – https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hearing-loss/in-depth/hearing-aids/art-20044116