No. Medicare covers only ear-related medical conditions, not routine hearing care, hearing aids or exams for fitting hearing aids. But with the FDA’s approval of over-the-counter hearing aids for mild to moderate hearing loss, you can now find lower-cost options.
Considered one of Medicare’s main coverage gaps, its lack of coverage for hearing aids means you may have to pay significant bills for hearing care services on your own.
A need unfilled. More than a quarter of adults 65 and older have difficulty hearing, and much of the hearing loss is treatable. About 4 percent of those older adults claimed they had “a lot of difficulty” or “couldn’t hear at all,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2019 National Health Interview Survey.
Treating hearing loss is important because of its link to an increased likelihood of memory loss and social isolation. A recent study found that hearing aids may reduce dementia risk by nearly half. This reinforces the idea that hearing well is vital to keeping you safe in your own home.
You foot the bill. The average Medicare beneficiary who used hearing care services paid $914 out of pocket in 2018, the most recent information available, and 10 percent of those who used hearing services spent $3,600 or more of their own money, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) study. Traditional hearing aids ordered through an audiologist can often cost $1,000 to $6,000 a pair.
You can get hearing coverage other ways, including Medicare Advantage plans that offer benefits for hearing aids and hearing exams. Also, if you qualify, you may get coverage from Medicaid in some states or through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health benefits. If you have retiree health insurance, that plan may help with the cost.
What hearing coverage does Medicare Advantage offer?
While most Medicare Advantage plans cover hearing aids and exams, that coverage is limited and varies significantly by plan.
Coverage capped. Most Medicare Advantage plans regulate the dollar amount or frequency of hearing aid purchases. In 2021, the average annual limit was $960, ranging from $66 to $4,000, according to the KFF study.
Typically, Medicare Advantage plans limit enrollees to one set of hearing aids a year, but more than a quarter of plans restrict hearing aid coverage to one pair every two years. The KFF study reported that 14 percent cover one set every three years.