Sunday, December 16, 2007

Hearing Aids - Surprise! You're on your own.

I learned something yesterday from a patient (and friend) that was a surprise to me! I did not know that hearing aids are generally excluded from insurance coverage and Medicare (insurance for Americans over 65) also does not cover hearing aids. I argued "No, that can't be true" but, sure young friend who suffered sudden hearing loss was correct. She should know as she had experienced the need to price compare and get the best deal at Costco.

Do any readers find this shocking? Hearing aids cost hundreds of dollars up to $2500. One study found that 55% of senior citizens not using hearing aids found cost to be the barrier. What about children that are hearing impaired?

Hearing aids are not a luxury. I've never known anyone to "fake" deafness just so they could wear an aid. Even the many hypochondriacs that doctors treat don't use lack of hearing to go from doctor to doctor or get lots of expensive tests. If you have hearing loss, it is easily diagnosed and treated with hearing aids. It is a medical condition.

The NHS in England offers free hearing aids to everyone who needs one. There can be an 8-14 week wait for a hearing aid. Or the patient can buy one from a private dispenser with a 2 week wait.
I don't know why this is excluded from coverage in the USA. Probably has something to do with cost, profit, lack of will. I don't know.


Rich said...

I guess it's like glasses - you have to have a seperate "eye plan" to get glasses covered. But coming from one who will probably need a hearing aid within the next ten years (i could probably use one now) as I have a hearing loss in one ear, I don't want to shell out the dough but I may have to.

K said...

I have long thought it ridiculous that things like glasses or hearing aids are considered essentially voluntary things (by the fact they're often not covered by health insurance and, if they are, have extraordinary restrictions such as 1 pair of glasses or one yearsworth of contacts every two years, or 1 visit a year when doctors routinely recommend 2). You need your eyes to see! You need your ears to hear! Sure, you can live without these things, but would you be able to function in society? I know I'd have a bitch of a time, considering things get blurry about 3.5 inches from my face.

saytheword said...

Hi, I'm with a group called the saywhatclub. and we're an international online support group for people with hearing loss and late deafness. and our blog

First off, I'm a bit surprised that Doctors are unaware of hearing aids and the battles we have. I have this here in NYC.
One out of every three hearing aids will land up in the night table next to peoples beds because they haven't been fitted properly or trained properly on how to adjust. Thats right...adjust. Too many audiologists out there making big profits to support their equipment that the manufacturers give them free in exchange for selling the aids.
Very few people have insurance which covers the total cost of aids which can be as high as $8000 for two, depending on where u go.
Buying over the internet is not for everyone as u really need to know your hearing aids and what aid will best suit you.
concerning England, the wait for an aid is more like 18 months to two years. We have several people from England on our site.
WE need legislation badly to help the increasing numbers of people who will be needing hearing aids. We can also use help in getting movie theatres, videos and T.V to caption every single show and commercial.
Schools NO LONGER require a child to have a hearing test to enter school. Every child in the U.S. should be required to get a regular full hearing test, not a hearing screening at several age levels. Its simple, its easy.
The No Child Left Behind has literally cut services to the deaf, hearing impaired and blind children in the U.S...
Hearing aid costs are a big problem for both the adult and the child with hearing loss. worst of all, the "normal" population out there, does not understand hearing loss.

Sharlotte said...

I find your blog rather interesting and useful. Hearing aids is still a way out for those who have hearing problems. However, certain people are deprived of a chance to hear the sounds even with the help of hearing aids. I have learned from that they are very different and diverse depending on the level of the deafness. There are numerous hearing aids manufacturers in the world which present their products on the US market.

Annie M said...

I'm an audiologist who has to deal with this a lot. We know how important hearing is, and how much losing you hearing can affect your life. Unfortunately, Medicare has decided that hearing aids are "cosmetic" and will not cover them. Since many insurance companies follow Medicare guidelines, they also do not cover hearing aids. Many states provide low end hearing aids to Medicaid patients, but not all. Some states provide full coverage to children, but not all. I live in Florida where a child can get ONE hearing aid. One!!!!

With healthcare in such shambles these days, we're actually seeing more and more insurance companies drop their hearing aid benefits. Other companies are farming their benefits out to large corporations that force providers to pay into the system in order to see these patients and provide them with hearing aids at very low cost. These systems do not make any delineation between hearing aid dealers and audiologists.

Health insurance in this country is horrible. For my field, its getting even worse. Reitrees from large auto manufacturers are about to lose their hearing aid benefits. We're trying to fight it, but there is only so much we can do, being a small profession. We are trying to pass legislation to allow a $500 tax credit per hearing aid for anyone over 55 or to families of dependent children who need hearing aids. No, it's not much, but every little bit counts. If you want to help get this passed, check out It's a website put out by the Better Hearing Institute, a very well-known organization. Write to your congress people and representatives. That site can guide you to the right place!

Thanks Dr. B for bringing this up!

Annie M, Doctor of Audiology

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your story its very interesting. Not all people lives normally some of them have deficiency like deaf people. Just to understand what people say to them by the help of hearing aid they can easily understand the conversation. I appreciate people help other people have problem in hearing by offering hearing aid. I wonder there are people give some facts about hearing aid in Pissed Consumer just take a look.

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