Medicare Hearing Benefits

Approximately one out of every three people between the ages of 65 and 74 suffer from hearing loss, and the number jumps to one out of every two people age 75 and over.1

Despite the prevalence of hearing loss in older adults, Medicare Part A and Part B (Original Medicare) offers little in the way of coverage for hearing care. So, what exactly does Medicare cover as it relates to hearing, and how can you find a Medicare Advantage plan that offers hearing benefits?

woman receives ear exam by doctor

Medicare Part A and Part B hearing coverage

Original Medicare does not provide coverage for the cost of hearing aids, hearing exams or fittings for hearing aids.

  • Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) may provide coverage for some hearing treatment, but only when administered in a hospital following a traumatic injury, illness or procedure.
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  • Medicare Part B (medical insurance) provides coverage for diagnostic hearing and balance exams, but only when your doctor or health care provider orders them. They may recommend such an exam when assessing your possible need treatment for something like dizziness or vertigo. Part B also covers cochlear implants, which are electronic medical devices that may be implanted in cases of severe or complete hearing loss.

In other words, Original Medicare does not provide coverage for routine or preventive hearing care, or for natural, age-related hearing loss. Only in the event of an emergency or during testing for other conditions might Original Medicare provide any coverage for hearing-related treatments or procedures.

Hearing care costs

Without Medicare coverage for hearing care services, a Medicare beneficiary could be left to pay for any necessary hearing aids, exams, treatments and prescription drugs out of pocket. Below is a breakdown of what those services and equipment might cost in 2019.

The costs provided are typical costs and are not intended to illustrate known prices for hearing care where you live. These services could come with higher or lower out-of-pocket costs than those listed below.

  • Hearing exams
    The National Campaign for Better Hearing recommends that people over the age of 60 have their hearing checked every year.2 A hearing test can cost up to $250 when performed by an audiologist.3
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  • Hearing aids
    According to Consumer Reports, the average out-of-pocket cost for hearing aids in 2017 was $2,710 each.4 That’s consistent with a 2013 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that stated the average cost of a set of hearing aids was $4,700.5 71 percent of those surveyed by Consumer Reports said they delayed their purchase of hearing aids for two years or longer, most often because of the cost.3

    After the initial purchase of hearing aids, there can be additional service costs to repair, replace, adjust and clean the devices, in addition to the cost of batteries.
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  • Prescription drugs
    Because Original Medicare doesn’t cover most prescription drug costs, beneficiaries may have to pay out of pocket for antibiotics to treat for inner ear infections or other drugs prescribed for hearing care.

Woman getting a hearing aid from doctor

Medicare Advantage and hearing care

All Medicare Advantage plans offer the same benefits as Medicare Part A and Part B, except for hospice care, which is still covered by Medicare Part A.

Some Medicare Advantage plans may also offer hearing benefits not found in Original Medicare, such as hearing exams, fittings for hearing aids and even the cost of hearing aids themselves. Because Medicare Advantage plans differ in their coverage and service area, consumers can shop around and may be able to find a plan that offers the hearing coverage they need.

Many Medicare Advantage plans also provide prescription drug coverage, which may be able to help cover the costs of any drugs required for ear infections or other hearing treatments.

All told, Medicare Advantage beneficiaries paid an average premium of under $36 per month in 2018.6 A Medicare Advantage plan with hearing benefits could be a good fit for Medicare beneficiaries looking for hearing coverage.    

Find a Medicare Advantage plan in your area. Call  TTY Users: 711 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to speak to a licensed insurance agent who can guide you through the plans sold where you live and detail the hearing benefits that those plans may offer.

 

1 Hearing Loss and Older Adults. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Retrieved June 28, 2018, from https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing-loss-older-adults.
2 Phillips, Cameron. When Should I Get My Hearing Tested and How Often? July 15, 2016. The National Campaign for Better Hearing. Retrieved from http://campaignforbetterhearing.ca/2016/07/when-should-i-get-my-hearing-tested-and-how-often.
3 How Much Does a Hearing Test Cost? CostHelperHealth. Retrieved June 28, 2018 from http://health.costhelper.com/hearing-test.html.
4 Calderone, Julia. 5 Ways to Cut Hearing Aid Costs. Consumer Reports. Feb. 2, 2017. Retrieved from  https://www.consumerreports.org/hearing-aids/save-on-cost-of-prescription-hearing-aids.
5 National Academies of Sciences Release Report on Hearing Aid Accessibility, Affordability. The Hearing Review. June 2, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.hearingreview.com/2016/06/national-academies-sciences-release-report-hearing-aid-accessibility-affordability.
6 MedicareAdvantage.com's internal analysis of CMS Medicare Advantage landscape source files, May 2018. Data retrieved from https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Prescription-Drug-Coverage/PrescriptionDrugCovGenIn.

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