Getting Hearing Aids on Medicare

Just like dentures and glasses, hearing aids are one health device that Medicare simply does not cover the cost. This can be frustrating if you need hearing aids, especially if the out-of-pocket cost puts a strain on your budget. Luckily, there are other options for getting assistance with the cost of a hearing aid when Medicare is your main form of health insurance. If you are enrolled in Original Medicare, switching to a Medicare Advantage plan or utilizing other forms of insurance are options to consider.

What Original Medicare Will and Will Not Cover

Generally speaking, you cannot use your Medicare benefits towards hearing exams and hearing aid devices. This is regardless of whether you have worn hearing aids for a long period of time or are a first-time hearing aid user. Unfortunately, Medicare, like many insurance providers, treats hearing aids as an elective item, just like eyeglasses. So if you are enrolled Original Medicare Part B — medical insurance that covers the cost of doctor’s visits — the cost of testing your hearing, fitting hearing aids and the devices themselves is your financial responsibility. If you do not have another form of insurance that provides hearing aid coverage, you will be stuck with the costs of any doctor’s services related to hearing aids.

Still, there are some cases when Medicare will cover the cost of hearing testing, specifically diagnostic testing and balance exams that your doctor might order to determine if you need medical treatment. On some occasions, hearing loss may come from a health condition such as radiation treatments, stroke or injury. In these scenarios, Medicare will help cover the cost of any medical services or testing to your ears and hearing so long as they are related to another health condition. If this is the case, you will likely be required to pay 20% of the doctor’s fee and your deductible cost, while Medicare will pick up the remaining 80%.  But, any follow-up exams with your doctor specifically meant to fit you with the best possible hearing aid or test your hearing (similar to an annual eye exam) will be an out-of-pocket expense. Even if you feel like the health condition caused the need to wear hearing aids, Medicare will not cover the cost — in the same way that Medicare will not cover the cost of dental implants or dentures even if teeth had to be pulled as part of medical treatment for another condition such as a broken jaw or oral surgery.

Hearing Aids and Medicare Advantage

If hearing aids are a device you wear regularly to improve your hearing, Original Medicare cannot offer you help with their cost. In this case, opting in to a Medicare Advantage plan may be the best solution at getting the medical devices you need and affording the cost.

Unlike Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage plans are provided through private insurance companies. These providers must match the level of insurance that Medicare provides — meaning they are legally required to give you, at minimum, the same kind of coverage — but private insurers often add other benefits, such as coverage for hearing aids, dentures and eyeglasses. For individuals suffering from hearing loss, Medicare Advantage plans may cover a wide spectrum of hearing services, including exams, fitting appointments and the actual hearing aids. These additional benefits are not free — they come with an additional premium on top of the Medicare premium you will still be required to pay. But, a small monthly premium can help defer the large costs of hearing devices and other needs you may have, such as glasses or dentures.

Looking for a Medicare Advantage plan that offers hearing aid coverage may prove to be a smart move, especially if your hearing is currently deteriorating or if you think hearing aids are a medical device you may need in the future. Often times the cost of hearing aids alone can be between hundreds or thousands of dollars, an expense that is heavy to shoulder without help from an insurance provider. And since many hearing aid wearers require an aid for both ears, the final bill can be overwhelming.

Each Medicare Advantage provider is different, and with countless plans to choose from, it is important to shop around for the best level of coverage that fits your budget. A Medicare Advantage plan can save you more money in the long run over Original Medicare enrollment simply by helping to cover the costs of the medical items that are not typically covered. Getting started on the search for a Medicare Advantage plan can seem overwhelming, but the Medicare Specialists at PolicyZip are available to help you compare your coverage options and find the optimal level of benefits at the most cost effective price.

If a Medicare Advantage plan is not for you — or you have to wait awhile to change your health insurance coverage — there are still options. If you have additional insurance coverage through a union, employer or private insurance policy, you can likely pick up coverage where your Medicare plan dropped off. This kind of additional coverage often kicks in after Medicare has paid its portion, and these insurance plans can help reduce or even eliminate the out-of-pocket cost you would have faced if you only had Original Medicare. If your hearing loss is related to military service, veterans’ benefits can often help cover the cost of a basic hearing aid, too.

Seeking Out Additional Help

In some instances, you may have difficulty covering the remaining cost of hearing aids or deductibles even with a Medicare Advantage plan. But, there are some other avenues to ensure you receive the medical equipment you need — you should never have to go without hearing simply because of the expense of hearing aids. Some charities and nonprofit organizations offer assistance with hearing aid costs as well as bills related to hearing exams and testing. Many state agencies offer help with overwhelming medical expenses, too. The Hearing Association of America, an organization that advocates for people with limited hearing and hearing loss, is a great resource for identifying additional forms of financial assistance to cover the cost of hearing aids and devices.