Jim Miller, an advocate for older Americans, writes “Savvy Senior,” a weekly information column syndicated in more than 400 newspapers nationwide. Based in Norman, Oklahoma, he also offers a free senior e-news service at SavvySenior.org.
Hearing aids have become very expensive. But you can reduce or even eliminate the cost…
Hearing aid bargains: Most Costco stores sell top brands of hearing aids for 30% to 50% less than other warehouse chains, hearing aid dealers and audiologist offices. They offer high-quality devices under the brands Kirkland Signature (the Costco house brand), Rexton, ReSound, Bernafon and Phonak at prices ranging from $500 to $1,800 per ear. This includes an in-store hearing test, fitting by a specialist and follow-up care.
Also, websites including EmbraceHearing.com and Audicus.com sell high-quality hearing aids directly from the manufacturer for as little as $400 or $500. But you will need to get a hearing evaluation from a local audiologist first, which can cost between $50 and $250.
Check your insurance: Most private health insurers don’t cover hearing aids, but a few do. UnitedHealthcare, for example, offers custom-programmed hearing aids through hi HealthInnovations for $599 to $899 each to people enrolled in its employer-sponsored individual or vision plans.
Some other insurers contribute a specified amount toward hearing aids, typically $500 or $1,000, or give a discount if you purchase hearing aids from a contracted provider.
Three states—Arkansas, New Hampshire and Rhode Island—require insurers to cover hearing aid costs for adults, and 20 states require it for children. Eligibility and amounts vary by state, and certain insurance plans are exempt.
Original Medicare (Parts A and B) and Medigap supplemental policies do not cover hearing aids, but some Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans, which are obtained through private insurers, include hearing aids. To find a plan that covers hearing aids, call 800-633-4227 or go to Medicare.gov/find-a-plan.
If you are a current or retired federal employee or if a member of your family is enrolled in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, some insurers provide coverage, including a Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan that covers up to $2,500 every three years.
Medicaid programs in most states cover hearing aids. Contact your state’s Medicaid program or visit Medicaid.gov.
Benefits for veterans: The Department of Veterans Affairs provides hearing aids and replacement batteries free of charge to veterans if their hearing loss is connected to military service or linked to a medical condition treated at a VA hospital. Veterans also can get free hearing aids through the VA if hearing loss is severe enough to interfere with activities of daily life. Call 877-222-8387 or visit VA.gov.
Assistance programs: If your income is low, there are various programs that provide financial assistance for hearing aids. Check by calling your state vocational rehabilitation department (see Parac.org/svrp.html for contact information). Also contact Sertoma (Sertoma.org), a civic service organization that provides a list of state and national hearing aid assistance programs. Or call the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders at 800-241-1044, and ask for a list of financial resources for hearing aids.