Men and women who need hearing aids often feel they can't afford them, and that's not surprising. Prices for a single hearing aid range from $1600 for a low-end device to $3,500 for a high-end one, and 80 percent of wearers need two. Battery costs are $30 to $150 per year. A 2014 survey by Consumer Reports found that 40 percent of those who bargained got a price break. Other than that, there is some limited help available:
Medical flexible spending accounts. For those with these accounts, the cost of a hearing aid and batteries is considered reimbursable.
Medicare and Medicaid. Hearing aids and most hearing tests are not covered by Medicare. Medicaid often covers hearing aids, but each state's requirements differ. The Hearing Loss Association of America's website has information by state.
Veteran benefits. Vets get hearing aids if their hearing loss is connected to their military service or linked to a medical condition treated at a VA hospital. Veterans also can get devices through the VA if their hearing loss is severe enough to interfere with activities of daily life.
Federal employee assistance. Federal employees and their families are entitled to coverage through some insurance plans. Health plans pay for a basic hearing aid, and employees pay for extras and upgrades themselves.
Nonprofits. Sertoma helps people with hearing problems and runs a hearing aid recycling program, SHARP through its 420 clubs (1-816-333-8300). HEAR Now, sponsored by the Starkey Hearing Foundation provides hearing aids for people with limited income. Clients pay for evaluations and a fee of $125 per aid.
Private insurers. Few private insurance companies cover hearing aids, but three states — New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Arkansas — require that insurers provide coverage for adults. New Hampshire insurance companies are required to cover the cost of no less than $1,500 per hearing aid once every five years. Rhode Island requires individual and group insurance policies to provide $700 coverage per individual hearing aid every three years for those over age 19. And in Arkansas, insurance companies are required to offer coverage to employers in the state. If a company takes advantage of this, the health plan must provide coverage of no less than $1,400 per ear every three years.
Affordable Care Act. A few states include some coverage for hearing aids and related services, under their health insurance exchanges. Information about this coverage is available from the Hearing Loss Association of America and through the Department of Health and Human Services. This government site gives additional information on proposed essential health benefits benchmark plans by state.
More info: The National Institute on Deafness (800) 241-1044; e-mail: email@example.com and the Better Hearing Institute (1-800-327-9355) have information on groups offering financial assistance for hearing aids.
Cathie Gandel is a freelance writer based in the New York City area.