Medicare and Hearing Coverage
Original Medicare does not cover hearing aids or exams for fitting hearing aids. Medicare Part B may cover some diagnostic hearing exams if you meet specific criteria. Medicare Advantage plans may bundle hearing, vision and dental coverage with Original Medicare benefits.
Hearing loss is a common problem for older Americans.
Roughly one third of Americans ages 65 to 74 experience hearing loss, while nearly half of people in the U.S. age 75 and older have difficulty hearing, according to the National Institute on Aging.
Scientists don’t know how to prevent age-related hearing loss and there is no way to reverse it.
Many devices and tools, such as hearing aids, are available to help people who suffer from hearing loss.
However, most older adults must pay out of pocket for some, if not all, costs related to these devices.
Does Medicare Cover Hearing Aids?
Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) does not cover hearing aids. It also does not cover exams to fit hearing aids.
Medicare supplemental insurance, also known as Medigap, doesn’t cover these expenses either.
H.R. 4618 — a Congressional bill introduced in October 2019 — would expand Medicare Part B coverage for hearing exams and hearing aids, with beneficiaries contributing 20 percent of costs.
However, the bill has failed to make any progress in Congress since January 2020.
Currently, Medicare Part C, also called Medicare Advantage, is the only type of Medicare plan that may cover hearing-related costs.
Medicare Advantage plans are administered by private companies that the government reimburses later.
These plans must provide the same basic level of care as Medicare Part A and Part B but may also bundle other benefits into a single plan, such as vision, dental and hearing.
All Part C plans are not created equal. If you’re considering Medicare Advantage, make sure to compare benefits of individual plans to ensure the services you need are covered.
How Much Do Hearing Aids Cost?
Hearing aids are expensive. According to a 2019 survey by Consumer Reports, people spent an average of $2,588 for the devices.
Research published in the American Journal of Public Health found that these high costs prevent many older Americans from purchasing hearing aids.
Only one in seven U.S. adults with hearing loss wears a hearing aid, according to researchers, and ownership is even more limited among minorities and people with low incomes.
While Medicare Advantage plans often advertise hearing coverage, out-of-pocket costs can vary.
For example, some plans may offer relatively low hearing aid copays of $200 or $300 per device but maintain high deductibles you must pay first.
Other Hearing Services Covered by Medicare
Original Medicare doesn’t cover hearing aids, but it will help pay for diagnostic hearing and balance exams.
However, exams are only covered if your doctor or health care provider orders them in an emergency or to see if you need medical treatment.
For example, a doctor may run these tests to diagnose the cause of dizziness or vertigo.
You will pay 20 percent of the Medicare-approved costs for these services, and the deductible for Part B applies.
This Part B coverage is narrow and does not apply to exams that test for general hearing loss.
11 Cited Research Articles
- Congress.gov. (2020). H.R.4618 - Medicare Hearing Act of 2019. Retrieved from https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/4618/all-actions
- O’Brien, S. (2019, October 28). Medicare would cover dental and vision if these bills pass Congress. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/28/medicare-would-cover-dental-and-vision-if-these-bills-pass-congress.html
- Umansky, D. (2019, January 15). Best and Worst Hearing Aid Brands and Retailers. Retrieved from https://www.consumerreports.org/hearing-aids/best-and-worst-hearing-aid-brands-and-retailers/
- National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. (2018. July 17). Age-Related Hearing Loss. Retrieved from https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/age-related-hearing-loss
- Blustein, J. and Weinstein, B. E. (2016, June). Opening the Market for Lower Cost Hearing Aids: Regulatory Change Can Improve the Health of Older Americans. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4880273/
- AARP. (n.d.). Does Medicare Cover Hearing Aids? Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/health/medicare-qa-tool/does-medicare-cover-hearing-aids/
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (n.d.). Hearing aids: How to choose the right one. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hearing-loss/in-depth/hearing-aids/art-20044116
- Medicare.gov. (n.d.). Hearing aids. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/hearing-aids
- Medicare.gov. (n.d.). Hearing and balance exams. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/hearing-balance-exams
- National Council on Aging. (n.d.). Medicare and Hearing. Retrieved from https://www.ncoa.org/economic-security/benefits/other-benefits/medicare-and-hearing/
- National Institute on Aging. (n.d.). Hearing Loss: A Common Problem for Older Adults. Retrieved from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/hearing-loss-common-problem-older-adults