If you're experiencing hearing loss, or your doctor has recommended hearing aids, you may be wondering if Medicare can help cover the cost. After all, hearing aids cost anywhere from $500 to $4,000 per ear, which can really put a dent in the wallet!
Unfortunately, Original Medicare doesn't cover the cost of hearing aids or their maintenance. That doesn't necessarily mean you're out of luck, though. Below, we'll take a closer look at Medicare's hearing aid coverage and other ways to find affordable hearing aids.
Medicare Hearing Aid Coverage 2023
Whether or not Medicare provides hearing aid coverage will depend on the type of Medicare plan you have.
Original Medicare Doesn't Provide Hearing Aid Coverage
Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) doesn't cover hearing aids in 20221. If you have a Medicare Part A or B plan, you will need to pay for your hearing aids out of pocket or with other insurance.
Medicare Advantage may Provide Hearing Aid Coverage
Some Medicare Advantage plans, also called Medicare Part C plans, may provide some hearing aid coverage. For example, Humana, Aetna, and Blue Cross Blue Shield all offer at least one Medicare Advantage plan with hearing aid coverage.
Costs that might be covered include:
- Hearing aids
- An earmold
- Hearing aid batteries
- Hearing test
- Audiologist visits for fitting and adjustments
Because Medicare Advantage plans are offered through private insurance companies, the benefits vary from plan to plan. And some insurers choose not to offer hearing aid benefits at all. Others only offer a plan with hearing aid coverage in certain states.
Did You Know: According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 88 percent of Medicare Advantage plans offer hearing aid coverage, which can significantly lower your out-of-pocket cost.2
You should also be aware that plans with hearing aid coverage may cost more than those without it. But given how expensive hearing aids are, it may be worth paying the higher premium if it means you won't need to pay for your hearing aids entirely out of pocket.
Visit your insurer's website or give them a call to see what, if any, hearing aid coverage you have. If you aren't covered, you can wait for a Medicare Advantage enrollment period, and then switch to a plan that offers hearing aid coverage in your state if you decide it's a good fit for you.
FYI: Learn everything you need to know about Medicare enrollment in our extensive 2023 Medicare Guide.
Does Medicare Cover Hearing Aids for Tinnitus?
Older adults often want to know if Medicare will cover hearing aids for certain conditions like tinnitus. Original Medicare does not cover hearing aids for any reason—even for that pesky ringing in your ears! If you're experiencing tinnitus and your doctor recommends hearing aids, you'll need to pay for them with other means.
Quick Tip: Are you struggling with tinnitus? Visit our list of the best hearing aids for tinnitus to find a device that's right for your needs.
Seniors with a Medicare Advantage plan might have better luck getting coverage. Check your insurance plan to see what your options are. You may find that your coverage only includes discounts from a particular brand or select doctors' offices. If that's the case, make sure you're using covered services.
Why Doesn't Medicare Cover Hearing Aids?
Original Medicare, and even many private insurance companies, elect not to cover hearing aids due to their cost. In Medicare's case, federal law prevents Medicare from covering hearing aids. That could change in the future, though. Several pieces of legislation introduced in 20213, including the Medicare Hearing Aid Coverage Act of 2021, would expand Medicare to cover hearing aids if passed.
Does Medicare Cover Hearing Tests?
Medicare only covers hearing tests in certain situations. It won't cover hearing exams for reasons solely related to hearing aids. For example, if you already have hearing aids and want a hearing test to reevaluate your hearing loss, Medicare will likely deny coverage.
However, if your doctor orders a diagnostic hearing exam to determine whether or not you need medical treatment, Medicare Part B may offer coverage4. That doesn't mean it's free. You may need to pay:
- 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount
- The Part B deductible
- A copay to the hospital if you're getting the exam done in a hospital outpatient setting
How Much Do Hearing Aids Cost?
Since Medicare doesn't cover hearing aids, you're probably wondering how much you'll need to shell out for the devices. Hearing aid costs vary, depending on what kind you need and what level of technology you want. Do you want your hearing aids to stream calls from your phone or adjust automatically to new environments? Hearing aids with features like those cost a lot more than basic models.
Average Bundled Hearing Aid Cost
In general, the average cost of two hearing aids is around $5,000 in the “bundled” model.
The total price typically includes the hearing aids, a consultation, your initial fitting, and any follow-up appointments in the bundled model. Sometimes it also covers a warranty, routine cleanings, and batteries.
If you buy your devices from a hearing instrument specialist, the hearing test is often included. When purchasing from an audiologist, you may be charged for the exam, especially if you have private insurance secondary to Medicare. Some of these may pick up part of the cost, but be careful as some may follow Medicare rules and deny the claim since the test is related to a hearing aid sale, which is specifically excluded from Medicare.
Save Upfront with “Unbundling”
A newer trend is “unbundling” the hearing aid itself and the associated services. This usually results in a lower upfront bill, which includes the hearing aids, fitting, and a limited number of follow-up visits. After that initial period, you will pay per-visit fees for service. Exact costs vary, depending on your provider and your insurance.
Save Even More with Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids
Not everyone has $5,000 sitting around to spend on hearing aids. That's why many seniors put off getting hearing aids. Fortunately, you do have other options to get the hearing assistance you need. Over-the-counter hearing aids, which you can buy without a professional hearing test, can be much cheaper. For example, MDHearing devices start at just $799.98 per pair. Plus, you can buy them online—no need for office visits.
Can I Get Free Hearing Aids?
Free hearing aids aren't the norm, but you might be able to snag a free pair. This is welcome news if you're on a Medicare plan that won't help with the cost.
Here are some groups that may offer free or highly discounted hearing aids to seniors:
- Your insurance company
- Medicare Advantage
- Medicaid (depending on your state)
- Department of Veterans Affairs (criteria have changed in the last few years, so check again if you were previously denied hearing aids)
- Vocational rehabilitation
- Local agencies and programs like Lions Club chapters
- National groups and foundations like Hearing Aid Project
- Hearing aid manufacturers
For a more detailed look, head over to our guide to free hearing aids. Just know that finding free hearing aids can take time, as you may need to add your name to a waiting list or wait for open enrollment. Another option for married seniors is to look at their spouse's private health insurance policy (if they have one) to see if it covers hearing aids. If so, it may be worthwhile to join their plan.
For more information, watch the video below on free and discounted hearing aids with our Editor-in-Chief, Jeff Hoyt, and audiologist Brad Ingrao.
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