Because hearing loss impacts more than 48 million Americans, hearing aid cost poses a potential barrier to care for some patients. On the other hand, numerous studies have confirmed the connection between untreated hearing loss and increased risk for cognitive decline, memory loss, falls, depression, anxiety and social isolation. So while you might wonder if you can afford hearing aids, you also might ask if you can afford to do without them? Here’s what you can you do if you suspect you have a hearing loss, but have budget concerns:
Schedule a Diagnostic Hearing Evaluation with an Audiologist
A diagnostic hearing evaluation performed by a doctoral-level audiologist can confirm whether you have a hearing loss, as well as determine the best type of treatment or hearing aid. The evaluation also provides a baseline measurement and may identify any underlying medical issues that may be contributing to your hearing loss, or that might require a referral.
Cost: If you have Medicare or Medicare replacement commercial insurance, the cost of your hearing evaluation is usually a covered benefit. For patients who do not have coverage, ask about private pay fees.
Caution: Beware of practices that offer “free” hearing screenings or evaluations. Hearing screenings are not the same as comprehensive diagnostic hearing evaluations. In addition, in these cases, the test results DO NOT belong to you and cannot be taken elsewhere. In other words, if you have a “free” hearing test, you can’t get your results and take them to another provider.
Bottom line: See a reputable audiologist and pay for a diagnostic hearing evaluation, either through insurance or private pay. The result then belongs to you and can help guide your treatment.
Discuss Budget Up Front with Your Healthcare Provider or Audiologist
Don’t assume you can’t afford hearing aids. And, don’t be fooled by ads and mailers promoting hearing aids for next to nothing—a low-cost hearing aid always has a caveat. There are, however, a number of affordable hearing aid options available, including special healthcare financing.
Cost: Affordable entry-level hearing aids often start around $750 per ear. With so many advances in hearing aid technology, even these basic digital models can offer you a significant improvement in your hearing.
Caution: Ask for a written quote from the audiologist detailing the cost of the hearing aids and services included, warranties and return policies.
Bottom line: Talk about budget concerns up front and see an audiologist that provides a written quote and ongoing follow-up care, along with quality options, verification, validation, and return options.
Call Associated Audiologists to Learn More about Your Insurance Coverage
Though Medicare and insurance typically cover the cost of the hearing evaluation, Medicare DOES NOT cover the cost of hearing aids. Coverage from Medicare replacement plans and traditional insurance plans varies. There are a few plans that offer a dollar amount toward hearing aid purchase, but these are few and far between. Others offer a low-end, pre-designated hearing aid ranging in cost from $600-$1,000 each, which may not be the best fit or solution. And yet other plans provide purchase options through third-party outlets which claim discounted pricing, but do not include hearing aid services.
Cost: Check with your audiologist regarding your insurance plan benefits related to hearing aids.
Caution: Don’t assume just because you have insurance that hearing aids will be covered, and remember that Medicare DOES NOT pay for hearing aids. Sometimes health insurance companies or their affiliates promote “cheap” hearing aids using confusing wording like “hearing aids available with low co-pays.” In most cases, low-cost hearing aids are either using basic processors which don’t perform as well in complex environments, or they are promoting an older, outdated technology that they are trying to clear from the warehouse. In other cases, the purchase includes only the hearing aid and fitting, but no additional follow-up services. And in some cases, it’s both low-end technology and no additional service included.
Bottom line: Associated Audiologists provides assistance with checking your coverage. We also can offer assistance with securing affordable financing options and adhere to best practices when fitting a hearing aid, including real-ear verification and follow-up care. Research shows better satisfaction and use when hearing aids are fit and followed by audiologists.
Don’t Trust Your Hearing to Just Any Provider
Audiology remains the gold standard of care for those seeking help with hearing loss. An audiologist can evaluate and confirm your hearing loss, recommending appropriate hearing aid technology for your lifestyle, budget and needs.
Audiologists also provide wax removal and monitoring/follow-up, and Associated Audiologists has staff who are experts in researching your insurance benefits, as well as connecting you with other financial resources, if needed.
“We understand it’s become very confusing for consumers to navigate all their options for improved hearing, but we also don’t want cost to be a barrier for anyone seeking help,” said Tim Steele, Ph.D., FAAA, President, Associated Audiologists.
Hearing Aid Performance Is the Most Important Factor
“There is a fine balance between cost and overall performance/satisfaction. What most people don’t realize is that a hearing aid isn’t just a piece of technology like a mobile phone that can be picked up in a retail store. It is a miniaturized, custom-fit, prescription-programmed device that needs regular maintenance, along with monitoring for wax buildup and hearing status of the user.
“As an independent, private practice of doctoral-level audiologists, we take pride in providing the most options available compared to any source, accepting most insurances, and offering the highest level of care in the region with ranges of costs and technologies for any budget,” Dr. Steele said.
“Our practice can review all your options so you understand the pros and cons. We work with many of the insurance plans or third-party distributors, but recommend you contact us first to get educated. We do this without sacrificing the professional services and care that our patients and their families deserve.”