Medicare

Medicare and Hearing Aids: Coverage, Costs and Best Plans

Medicare and Hearing Aids: Coverage, Costs and Best Plans

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Hearing aid coverage varies based on the type of Medicare. Hearing aids are not covered by Original Medicare (Parts A and B) or Medigap plans. However, most Medicare Advantage plans (Medicare Part C) have some coverage for hearing aids. Even with these plans, enrollees pay an average of $1,817 per hearing aid, a discount from the typical cost of $2,300.

For those who are dual-enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid, hearing aids are covered through Medicaid in 28 states. There is broader coverage across all types of Medicare for hearing exams and implantable hearing devices.

Does Medicare cover hearing aids?

Original Medicare (Parts A and B) has no hearing aid coverage, and you'll pay out-of-pocket for devices. Medicare Advantage plans have the best overall coverage for hearing aids and hearing care.

Medicare's benefits for hearing exams are much better, and you can be covered through Medicare Part B, Medicare Supplement or Medicare Advantage plans.

Type of Medicare
Hearing aids
Hearing exams
Part A (hospital)
No
No
Part B (medical)
No
Yes
Part C (Medicare Advantage)
Usually
Yes
Part D (prescription drugs)
No
No
Medicare Supplement (Medigap)
No, but an add-on plan may be available
Yes

The exceptions to these coverage rules are bone-anchored hearing aids (Baha) and cochlear implants. Coverage is different for these implantable hearing devices because they're classified as a prosthetic device rather than a hearing aid. If you meet the procedure guidelines, the devices and outpatient procedures are covered through Medicare Part B, Medigap or Medicare Advantage.

How can you get add-on hearing aid coverage?

For those who don't have hearing aid coverage, you can get a standalone policy that offers hearing benefits. Many people purchase these add-on policies through their Medigap company, but plans may be available through any private insurance company.

Hearing insurance plans are outside of your Medicare coverage and will have an extra cost. Benefits can also vary widely, but they're usually a good deal when plans are available.

For example, Blue Cross Blue Shield offers Dental Vision Hearing Packages in some areas. It costs about $15.25 per month, and the benefits could mean you pay $495 to $1,695 per hearing aid.

Medicare Advantage plans provide the best overall hearing benefits

Unlike Original Medicare, most Medicare Advantage plans cover hearing aids and exams.

  • Hearing aids are covered by 88% of Medicare Advantage plans.
  • Hearing exams are covered by 97% of Medicare Advantage plans.

Medicare Advantage plans, also known as Medicare Part C, are more like traditional insurance, and they combine multiple categories of coverage, including medical, hospital, prescription drugs and add-on benefits for hearing, dental and vision. As a result, they offer more robust support for hearing health.

Keep in mind that hearing benefits vary widely with Medicare Advantage plans, and partial coverage could still leave you with high out-of-pocket costs.

On average, Medicare Advantage enrollees still pay about 79% of the cost of a hearing aid. That means it would cost you about $1,817 for a $2,300 hearing aid.

Plans may also have coverage specifics about audiologist appointments. For example, 57% of Medicare Advantage enrollees need preauthorization for a routine hearing exam. Check your policy for details on benefits and restrictions.

Best Medicare Advantage plans for hearing aids

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Humana
  • Typical hearing aid cost: $399 to $999
  • Partnered with TruHearing for hearing care and hearing aids
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Blue Cross Blue Shield
  • Typical hearing aid cost: $699 to $999
  • Partnered with TruHearing for hearing care and hearing aids
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AARP/UnitedHealthcare
  • Typical hearing aid cost: $375 to $2,075
  • Options for virtual hearing care and devices shipped to your home

Cost of hearing aids and how to save

Hearing aids cost an average of $2,300 each. For both ears, that’s $4,600 a pair.

Among the range of brands, Eargo tends to be a little less expensive, and Phonak hearing aids can be priced higher. Despite the sticker shock of spending thousands of dollars to manage hearing loss, savvy consumers have several ways to save money on hearing aids:

  • Hearing aid discount programs: Membership in a discount program like AARP or TruHearing can help you get hearing aids at a 20% to 60% discount. Before signing up, check that the program includes your type of hearing aid, and calculate the size of the benefits versus how much you’ll pay for the program.

  • Wholesale clubs: Where you shop can affect prices, and hearing aids cost about 50% less at a wholesale club like Cosco than at a name-brand hearing aid store.
  • Financial assistance programs: Many foundations and charities provide hearing aid discounts. Some of the most popular programs include Help America Hear and the Hearing Aid Project. For more opportunities, check the Hearing Industries Association (HIA) directory for financial assistance for hearing aids or contact the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).
  • Veterans’ benefits: The VA provides hearing aids for veterans who meet certain criteria, including those who have a service-connected hearing disability, those whose hearing loss interferes with their other medical care and more.
  • Tax-advantaged savings account: If you have a Health Savings Account (HSA) or a Medicare-specific Medical Savings Account (MSA), you can use these tax-free dollars to pay for hearing aids. MSA accounts aren't available to everyone, and they won’t reduce the retail price for the devices. However, setting aside $3,000 in an account to use for hearing aids can reduce taxes by $600 for someone who pays a 20% tax rate.
  • Discounted devices: Depending on your needs, you may be able to use a more affordable hearing amplifier or hearing assist device. These devices, worn on the ear similar to a hearing aid, are priced anywhere from $50 to $500 at retailers like Walmart.
  • Over-the-counter hearing aids coming soon: For those with mild to moderate hearing loss, over-the-counter hearing aids are expected on the market in 2022 or 2023. The FDA regulation process is currently ongoing for these affordable alternatives to traditional hearing aids.

Medicaid hearing aid coverage

If you’re one of the 12.2 million people who are dual-enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid, you may have hearing aid coverage through Medicaid. Coverage for adults varies by state, and some level of hearing aid coverage is offered through Medicaid in the following 28 states:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming
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Why doesn’t Original Medicare pay for hearing aids?

Hearing aids aren't covered by Medicare Parts A or B because when Medicare was established in 1965, hearing aids were specifically excluded from benefits via Section 1862 of Title XVIII of the Social Security Act.

However, when the law was written, hearing aid technology was still in development, and the first full digital wearable hearing aid wasn't available until the 1980s.

Many more people wear hearing aids now than in previous decades, and since 1980, hearing aid sales have increased about sevenfold.

Today, one-third of adults over age 65 have hearing loss. However, Medicare legislation hasn't caught up to consumer medical needs.

Hearing aid coverage could change in 2022

It has become a legislative priority to add hearing aid coverage to Medicare. The U.S. government’s 2022 budget proposal, includes an initiative for "improving access to dental, hearing, and vision coverage in Medicare."

In addition, a separate proposal called the Medicare Dental, Vision, and Hearing Benefit Act has been introduced in the House of Representatives for expanding Medicare benefits.

Even though previous attempts to provide hearing aid coverage to Medicare enrollees have failed, there is momentum to close the coverage gap for hearing, vision and dental care. Plus, this Medicare coverage expansion is cheaper than other Medicare proposals, such as adding nursing home coverage, giving it a better chance for success.

How much will a hearing test cost with Medicare Part B or Medigap?

Some audiologist services are covered by Original Medicare if a health care provider orders it to develop a medical treatment plan. If you have Medicare Part B, you’ll pay 20% of the approved Medicare cost for each service, including diagnostic hearing and balance exams.

Audiology service
Procedure cost
Your portion of the bill with Medicare Part B (20%)
Diagnostic hearing loss test$26$5
Hearing balance test$35$7
Assessment of hearing using different tone pitches$53$10
Testing of nerve from ear to brain (cochlear)$57$11

Medicare-approved average amount

If you have a Medicare Supplement plan (Medigap) alongside Medicare Part B, you’ll pay a smaller portion of the appointment cost. Your out-of-pocket costs will be determined by the Medigap plan’s benefits for the Part B coinsurance.

For example, Medigap Plan F and Plan G cover 100% of the medical coinsurance. That means these plans will provide free hearing exams if the procedure qualifies under Medicare and if you’ve already met your Part B deductible.

On the other hand, Medigap Plan K covers half of the coinsurance cost. This will reduce your cost for a hearing assessment from $10 down to $5.

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Frequently asked questions

Does Medicare Advantage cover hearing aids?

Yes, 88% of Medicare Advantage plans cover hearing aids. These plans provide the best hearing aid coverage, compared to other parts of Medicare. However, your out-of-pocket costs may still be high.

How much do hearing aids cost with Medicare?

On average, a Medicare Advantage plan will only reduce hearing aid costs by 21%, and enrollees pay an average of $1,817 per hearing aid. However, actual costs will vary based on your plan's benefits and the cost of the device. Those enrolled in Original Medicare or Medigap will pay full price for a hearing aid, averaging around $2,300 each.

Does Medicare Supplement pay for hearing aids?

No, Medicare Supplement plans (Medigap) do not cover hearing aids. However, you may be able to purchase an add-on plan for hearing, dental and vision. A supplemental plan will cover diagnostic hearing exams if your doctor orders the tests as part of your treatment plan.

What's the best Medicare plan for hearing aid coverage?

We recommend a Humana Medicare Advantage plan, which usually offers hearing aids for $399 to $999 each through its partnership with TruHearing. Even if you don't have Humana, a Medicare Advantage plan is the best way to get comprehensive hearing coverage.

Sources

  • Medicare.gov
  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
  • National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
  • President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield
  • Humana
  • UnitedHealthcare
  • Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP)
  • Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF)
  • Consumer Reports
  • The Hearing Review
  • Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA)

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.