Men and women who need hearing aids often feel they can't afford them, and that's not surprising. Prices for a hearing aid range from $1,200 for a low-end device to $3,700 for a high-end one — and 80 percent of wearers need two. Battery costs are $50 to $100 per year. A 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:
See also: Save on health expenses.
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 through its 500 clubs (sertoma.org, 1-800-593-5646). 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.
Cathie Gandel is a freelance writer based in the New York City area.