As a nationwide Medicare Supplement broker, we get many questions every day from seniors who are new to Medicare. One of the most frequently asked questions is “does Medicare cover hearing aids?”
If you are approaching the enrollment age for Medicare or if you’re enrolled but still unsure about the coverages available to you, you’ll likely want to know if Medicare helps pay for hearing aid or hearing tests or if these costs are completely out-of-pocket.
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As we age, many seniors experience some degree of hearing loss. This may seem inconsequential, but it is actually treatable. Sadly, most hearing issues are irreversible, but they can be managed. Quality hearing aids will help you follow normal conversations and socialize as you did before your hearing issues—it even reduces your chance of developing dementia.
Hearing Aid Coverage with Medicare in 2022
Regretfully, in 2022, Medicare still does not provide coverage for hearing aids and in most cases hearing exams so you can expect to pay for these expenses completely out-of-pocket. So if you are enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B and you need help with hearing tests and hearing aid expenses, you’ll need to look for additional or alternative health insurance coverage.
Medicare typically doesn’t cover hearing exams and hearing aids, but there are ways to access them. For example, if your doctor orders the hearing exam in conjunction with a medical condition like an ear infection, then Medicare Part B will cover the cost. But if you have Medicare and want to receive coverage for a hearing aid, you’ll need additional insurance.
Do Medicare Supplement Plans Cover Hearing Tests or Hearing Aids?
Since Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plans are designed to work as secondary coverage to Medicare Part A and Part B, if Medicare doesn’t cover a healthcare service like hearing aids, neither will a Medicare Supplement plan.
Although Medicare will generally not offer coverage for hearing tests or hearing aids, you can purchase a stand-alone policy that typically covers dental, hearing, and vision expenses. These stand-alone medical plans are generally very affordable and will save you considerable out-of-pocket expenses versus the premiums charged.
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Recent Changes in Medicare and Hearing Aids
Hearing aids are just too expensive. They’re so expensive, in fact, that Congress has been discussing legislation that would make hearing aids more affordable for Medicare recipients.
Regretfully, no legislation addressing the high costs of hearing aids has been passed so it’s a good idea to write your congressional representatives and let them know how important hearing aid coverage would be for you.
The most recent activity concerning hearing aid costs is a bill titled the Medicare Hearing Aid Coverage Act of 2021 which was introduced in the house. This bill provides for Medicare to cover the costs that most seniors with moderate to severe hearing loss must pay out-of-pocket.
If this bill is finally passed, it calls for Medicare to pay for a single pair of hearing aids every five years but over-the-counter hearing aids would not be covered. Moreover, for your hearing aids to be covered by Medicare Part B, they would have to be prescribed by a physician or qualified audiologist.
Once again, Medicare beneficiaries should contact their congressperson and senator to make sure that the topic of Medicare coverage for hearing aids remains an important topic in the congress.
Hearing Aids Sold Over-the-Counter
In 2017, Congress passed legislation to lower the cost of over-the-counter hearing aids. The legislation instructs the FDA to loosen the barriers to purchasing hearing aids over the counter, however, the legislation currently still needs to be passed by the FDA.
Once this rule is approved by the FDA, individuals with mild or moderate hearing loss can purchase the self-fitting hearing aids although currently, you must see an audiologist for a hearing aid fitting.
Does Medicare Cover Cochlear Implants?
Medicare will cover cochlear implants when deemed medically necessary by a doctor and if the Medicare beneficiary has met certain criteria.
For example, Medigap pays after Medicare, so those with a Medicare Supplement plan will likely have considerably less out-of-pocket expenses for cochlear implants compared to those without a supplement plan.
How to Get Help with the Cost of Hearing Exams and Hearing Aids
Depending on where you live, there may be programs from both the state and local levels that can help with paying for an audiologist visit and hearing aids.
For example, Medicaid may cover hearing aids in some states. It’s important to know your income because if it is too high, you may still be able to get assistance through your county’s Social Services department.
Moreover, Medicare beneficiaries can purchase stan-alone Dental, vision, and hearing insurance that will pay up to $1,5000 per year for about $40 per month. Companies like Delta (ManhattanLife), and Aetna offer stand-alone plans or you may want to consider a Medicare Advantage plan (Medicare Part C) which generally includes all the coverages offered by Medicare Part A, Part B, and Part D, plus dental, hearing, and vision benefits.
Frequently Asked Questions
No. Medicare does not generally pay for hearing aids. They may, however, pay for hearing tests if the test is ordered because of another covered medical condition.
Most of your healthcare expenses are considered eligible for deductions by the internal revenue service. Since hearing loss is considered a medical condition and hearing aids are medical devices regulated by the FDA, you may be able to deduct these costs. Always check with your tax preparer or CPA to make certain hearing expenses are deductible.
We have found that Manhattan Life and Aetna offer an affordable stand-alone dental, hearing, and vision plan with maximum coverages up to $1,500.
So far, Congress is leaving these cost controls to the FDA. Once this rule is approved by the FDA, individuals with mild or moderate hearing loss can purchase the self-fitting hearing aids> However, you must see an audiologist for a hearing aid fitting
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