Does Medicare Cover Cochlear Implants?

Medicare will pay 80% of the cost of cochlear implants and surgery for those who qualify. Eligibility is based on several factors, including the severity of your hearing loss. You may need to participate in a clinical trial to receive Medicare coverage for your cochlear implants.

Terry Turner, writer and researcher for RetireGuide
  • Written by
    Terry Turner

    Terry Turner

    Senior Financial Writer and Financial Wellness Facilitator

    Terry Turner has more than 35 years of journalism experience, including covering benefits, spending and congressional action on federal programs such as Social Security and Medicare. He is a Certified Financial Wellness Facilitator through the National Wellness Institute and the Foundation for Financial Wellness and a member of the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education (AFCPE®).

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  • Edited By
    Savannah Pittle
    Savannah Pittle, senior financial editor for RetireGuide

    Savannah Pittle

    Senior Financial Editor

    Savannah Pittle is a professional writer and content editor with over 16 years of professional experience across multiple industries. She has ghostwritten for entrepreneurs and industry leaders and been published in mediums such as The Huffington Post, Southern Living and Interior Appeal Magazine.

    Read More
  • Reviewed By
    Aflak Chowdhury
    Aflak Chowdhury

    Aflak Chowdhury

    Medicare Expert

    Aflak Chowdhury is a Medicare expert and independent insurance broker specializing in group health insurance. He has worked for major providers including Humana and Principal Financial Group and today works mainly in the small group market.

    Read More
  • Published: May 10, 2021
  • Updated: October 20, 2023
  • 5 min read time
  • This page features 7 Cited Research Articles
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A licensed insurance professional reviewed this page for accuracy and compliance with the CMS Medicare Communications and Marketing Guidelines (MCMGs) and Medicare Advantage (MA/MAPD) and/or Medicare Prescription Drug Plans (PDP) carriers’ guidelines.

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APA Turner, T. (2023, October 20). Does Medicare Cover Cochlear Implants? RetireGuide.com. Retrieved February 27, 2024, from https://www.retireguide.com/medicare/services/hearing/cochlear-implants/

MLA Turner, Terry. "Does Medicare Cover Cochlear Implants?" RetireGuide.com, 20 Oct 2023, https://www.retireguide.com/medicare/services/hearing/cochlear-implants/.

Chicago Turner, Terry. "Does Medicare Cover Cochlear Implants?" RetireGuide.com. Last modified October 20, 2023. https://www.retireguide.com/medicare/services/hearing/cochlear-implants/.

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Cochlear Implant Coverage at a Glance
Medicare PlanCochlear Implant Coverage
Part A (Inpatient)N/A
Part B (Outpatient)Covers 80% of the cost of cochlear implants for those who qualify after reaching their Part B deductible.
Part C (Medicare Advantage)Coverage mirrors Part B. Select plans may offer additional benefits.
Part D (Prescription Drugs)N/A
Supplemental InsuranceCan help cover out-of-pocket costs related to cochlear implants. Coverage varies by plan.

Understanding Medicare Coverage of Cochlear Implants

Medicare and other federal health programs provide at least some coverage for cochlear implants.

Qualifying for Medicare coverage depends in large part on the severity of your hearing loss and whether other methods, such as hearing aids, have been unsuccessful in treating your condition.

Cochlear implants are not hearing aids. Original Medicare does not cover hearing aids.

Coverage for Beneficiaries with Moderate-to-Severe Hearing Loss

Generally, a cochlear implant is covered by Medicare if you recognize sentences while wearing your hearing aids only 40% of the time or less.

You must also meet all the guidelines below to qualify for Medicare cochlear implant coverage:
  • You’ve received a diagnosis of bilateral moderate-to-profound sensorineural hearing impairment with limited benefit from hearing aids.
  • You are able to use auditory clues and have a willingness to undergo a rehabilitation program.
  • You have no medical problems that could put you at risk during surgery.
  • You have no middle ear infection.
  • You have an accessible cochlear lumen that can support an implantation.
  • You have no lesions in the auditory nerve and acoustic areas of the central nervous system.

Three companies manufacture FDA-approved cochlear implant devices: Cochlear, Advanced Bionics Corp. and MED-EL Corp.

Expanded Medicare Coverage Criteria

In 2022, Medicare updated its national coverage determination to cover cochlear implantation for those who test at less than or equal to 60% correct on aided, recorded tests of open-set sentence cognition and meet all other eligibility requirements.

Previously, if you scored between 41% and 60% on a hearing test you could be eligible for Medicare coverage only if your provider participated in an approved cochlear implant clinical trial.

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Cochlear Implants Costs

If you meet Medicare’s criteria for cochlear implants, you may still owe some money out-of-pocket.

Medicare considers cochlear implants a prosthetic device covered under Medicare Part B.

You will likely owe 20% for the Medicare-approved cost of the device, and the Part B deductible applies.

You may owe less if you have supplement insurance, such as Medicaid or a Medigap policy.

Medicare Advantage plans must offer the same basic benefits as Original Medicare (Part A and Part B), but many offer additional benefits.

If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, check with your plan provider to learn more about its coverage of cochlear implants. Prior authorization may be required.

Most surgeons who perform cochlear implants have insurance experts on staff who can help you navigate your plan’s rules and answer questions.

Cochlear implant monitoring — including remapping and reprogramming — as well as rehabilitation following your surgery is usually covered as an outpatient rehabilitation therapy benefit.

Check your specific plan or ask an insurance expert at your surgeon’s office for more information about any out-of-pocket costs for follow-up care and rehabilitation.

What Are Cochlear Implants?

Cochlear implants are small devices surgically implanted inside your ear to stimulate the auditory nerve with electrical currents.

They bypass hair cells inside the ear and directly transmit sounds through multiple electrodes.

The purpose of implanting the device is to provide awareness and identification of sounds for people who are moderately to profoundly hearing impaired.

The four basic components of a cochlear implant are:
  • A microphone, which picks up sounds, worn externally behind the ear
  • An external speech processor, which converts sounds to electrical signals
  • A transmitter and receiver/stimulator, which relay the signals.
  • Implanted electrodes, which stimulate the fibers of the auditory nerve

Cochlear implants are available in single-channel and multi-channel models.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, you will need to return to the implanting center four to five weeks after post-surgery healing to get your speech processor programmed.

The number of visits needed to properly optimize your device depends on several factors, including your age and cognitive skills.

Because your response to nerve stimulation may change, you’ll need long-term follow-up after your procedure.

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Other Common Questions About Medicare & Cochlear Implants

How often does Medicare allow you to upgrade your cochlear implants?
Though Medicare coverage of hearing services is limited, it does cover cochlear implants for eligible patients who meet specific criteria. Medicare may also approve the replacement of your cochlear implant’s sound processor when it is close to or at the end of its “useful life” — typically considered five years.
Which plan is better for affording cochlear implants, Medigap or Medicare Advantage?
You have to compare individual Medigap vs. Medicare Advantage plans to determine which one is best for your needs. These are plans sold by private insurers. Medicare Advantage plans may vary widely in their coverage for individual items such as cochlear implants. Some Medigap plans will cover all or most of your out-of-pocket costs, but will not cover your Part B deductible if you qualified for Medicare after January 1, 2020.
What is the required hearing test score for Medicare coverage of cochlear implants?
In 2022, Medicare updated its national coverage determination for cochlear implants. Medicare now covers cochlear implantation for those who test up to 60% correct on recorded tests of open-set sentence cognition and meet other eligibility requirements.
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Last Modified: October 20, 2023

7 Cited Research Articles

  1. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (2022). NCA - Cochlear Implantation (CAG-00107R) - Decision Memo. (2022). Retrieved from https://www.cms.gov/medicare-coverage-database/view/ncacal-decision-memo.aspx?proposed=N&ncaid=306
  2. ‌United Healthcare. (2020, September 9). Cochlear Implantation (NCD 50.3). Retrieved from https://www.uhcprovider.com/content/dam/provider/docs/public/policies/medadv-guidelines/c/cochlear-implantation.pdf
  3. Buchman, C.A. et al. (2020, August 27). Unilateral Cochlear Implants for Severe, Profound, or Moderate Sloping to Profound Bilateral Sensorineural Hearing Loss: A Systematic Review and Consensus Statements. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32857157/
  4. American Cochlear Implant Alliance. (2020). Cochlear Implants (CI), Hearing Aids, and Older Adults. Retrieved from https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.acialliance.org/resource/resmgr/advocacy/cochlear_implants_fact.sheet.pdf
  5. American Cochlear Implant Alliance. (2018, February 23). Continuation of Medicare Expansion Study. Retrieved from https://www.acialliance.org/page/MedicareExpansion
  6. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (n.d.). Cochlear Implantation. Retrieved from https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Coverage/Coverage-with-Evidence-Development/Cochlear-Implantation-
  7. Medicare.gov. (n.d.). Prosthetic devices. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/prosthetic-devices