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Does Medicare Cover Hearing Aids?

Jul 29, 2022

By Chrissy Holm
Medically Reviewed by Brad Ingrao, AuD
Reviewed by Brandy Bauer, Director, NCOA Center for Benefits Access
Fact Checked

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Key Takeaways

  • Medicare Parts A and B do not cover the cost of hearing aids, but some Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans may offer some coverage, depending on your plan.
  • A few ways to save money on hearing aids include charitable foundations, local Lions Clubs, and your local Area Agency on Aging.
  • Medicare has four parts: Part A, Part B, Part C (Medicare Advantage), and Part D (prescription drug coverage).

Hearing aids are expensive, averaging $4,600 per pair or $2,700 per ear, and one way people try to cover the cost is by turning to Medicare.1 But does Medicare actually cover hearing aids?

In this article our Reviews Team breaks down some common questions related to hearing aids and coverage options from insurance providers such as Medicare. We’ll explore questions such as: What is Medicare? Does Medicare cover hearing aids and hearing exams?

In answering these questions, we hope this will bring you one step closer to finding the top hearing aids that fit your needs.

What is Medicare?

Medicare is a federal health insurance program for people 65 and older, people with end-stage kidney disease, and younger people with certain types of disabilities. 

Medicare has four parts: Part A, Part B, Part C (Medicare Advantage), and Part D (prescription drug coverage). 

Does Medicare cover hearing aids?

Medicare Parts A and B don’t cover the cost of hearing aids, fittings for hearing aids, or hearing exams that are specifically for the purpose of buying a hearing aid. But, Medicare Parts A and B do cover hearing exams for diagnostic purposes, as long as you have a referral from your doctor.2

Some Medicare Advantage plans cover hearing aids, exams, and hearing services, but that will depend on your individual plan.3

Does Medicare cover hearing exams?

Medicare Part B covers part of the cost of a diagnostic hearing and balance exam if your doctor orders it to determine if you need medical treatment. You will still need to pay the Part B deductible plus 20% of the approved Medicare cost, and there may be other charges, especially if you’re being seen in a hospital setting.5

Does Medicare Advantage cover hearing aids?

Medicare Advantage (Part C) offers coverage for hearing services, and in many cases Medicare Advantage covers some of the cost of hearing aids. 

Medicare Advantage is private medical insurance bundled with your original Medicare Part A or B plan, so the level of hearing aid coverage will depend on which private insurance company you have chosen for your Medicare Advantage plan.7

To find out whether your Medicare Advantage policy covers hearing aids and services, contact your insurance company at the phone number listed on your membership card and ask the customer representative, “What are my hearing aid benefits?” 

You can also contact a Medicare representative at 1-800-MEDICARE, chat with a representative online at medicare.gov, or consult NCOA’s extensive guidance on navigating your Medicare benefits.

How to add Medicare Advantage to your Medicare plan

If you don’t have Medicare Advantage but are interested in adding it to your Medicare plan, talk to a licensed Medicare professional to compare the different insurance plans that are available. Read the federal government’s rules for Medicare representatives, so you are prepared before making any calls.

A licensed Medicare agent will help you compare benefits offered by different insurance companies, so you can determine which insurance plan has the best hearing aid coverage.  The agent will also help you compare other benefits that are important to you, and calculate your monthly premiums and deductibles, so you can decide which plan best fits within your budget.

Why doesn’t Medicare cover hearing aids?

“When Medicare originally was passed into law in 1965, it did not include coverage for hearing or dental or vision,” said Garrett Ball, owner and president of 65Medicare.org, and a licensed Medicare insurance broker. 

“The rationale was lifespans were shorter and not as many people lived long enough to need hearing aids,” he said. “Also, hearing aids were cheaper then—although obviously less advanced. Although it has been a commonly debated topic many times since then, Medicare still does not cover hearing aids.” 

Will Medicare cover hearing aids in the future?

“Not without Medicare reform,” said Travis Price, an independent licensed insurance agent in Michigan.  Price is also not hopeful Medicare will cover hearing aids in the future. “There have been multiple attempts to pass legislation that would add coverage for hearing aids—as well as dental and vision—into Medicare,” he said.

One of the more recent ones was the Seniors Have Eyes, Ears, and Teeth Act, which was introduced in 2019 but never made any progress. 

Other programs to help with the costs of hearing aids exist, Ball said, but he felt uncertain about whether the Medicare program would ever add hearing aids to their standard Medicare coverage.

How much do hearing aids cost?

Hearing aids cost, on average, $4,600 per pair.1 Costs can vary depending on whether the hearing aids have advanced technology and special features, such as Bluetooth, rechargeable batteries, and telecoil.

In our Reviews Team’s survey of hearing aid users, the majority of respondents reported price was the most important factor when shopping for a hearing aid.

How to save money on hearing aids

Hearing aids are expensive, but there are several strategies that can help you save money. 

Start by researching charitable foundations like the Hearing Aid Project or the Miracle-Ear Foundation to find out if you’re eligible, and reach out to your local Lions Clubs and area agency on aging

For more information about benefits in your area, visit our Benefits CheckUp, check out our AgeWellPlanner for tools and resources to help you understand Medicare costs, or see our list of organizations that can help you pay for hearing aids and tests.

You might also have other options to help pay for hearing aids, including private health insurance, flexible spending accounts, health savings accounts, or Veterans Administration benefits.

  • Private health insurance: Depending on your plan, private insurance may cover hearing tests, evaluations, or costs of hearing aids. Check with your insurance provider for more details.
  • Flexible spending accounts (FSA): If your employer offers an FSA, you can use pre-tax flexible spending money to offset your hearing aid costs.
  • Health savings accounts (HSA): You can contribute to medical expenses, including hearing aids and items not covered by insurance, using an HSA.
  • Veterans Administration (VA) benefits: If you are a U.S. military veteran and qualify for general VA health care, you’re likely to be eligible for free premium hearing aids.10 Visit va.gov or your local VA clinic or medical center to check your eligibility.

Does Medicaid cover hearing aids?

Medicaid provides health coverage to eligible low-income adults, children, pregnant women, older adults, and people with disabilities. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “Each state operates its own Medicaid program within federal guidelines. Because the federal guidelines are broad, states have a great deal of flexibility in designing and administering their programs. As a result, Medicaid eligibility and benefits can and often do vary widely from state to state.”5

Medicaid coverage for hearing aids varies by state, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America.4 Of the 50 states, 20 don’t provide any type of hearing aid coverage for adults. For the 30 states that do provide coverage for hearing aids, there are limitations to coverage that are specific to each state. In most cases, Medicaid recipients must first have a medical diagnosis and a prescription for hearing aids from their doctor. In California, for example, “hearing aids must be supplied by a hearing aid dispenser on the prescription of an otolaryngologist (a doctor who treats issues of the ear, nose, or throat), or the attending physician.”4

It’s worth noting federal guidelines require all states to provide hearing aid coverage and services for children and young adults until the age of 21.

The best inexpensive hearing aids

Many hearing aid companies on the market offer inexpensive and reliable hearing aids.

For example, in our best affordable hearing aids review, our Reviews Team chose MDHearing as “Most Versatile Budget Hearing Aid,” Audien as “Most Affordable,” and Audicus as “Best Budget-Friendly Bluetooth.”

For a wider selection of hearing aids at different price points, see our review of the best hearing aids on the market.

Table 1 Comparing the best inexpensive hearing aids, as of June 2022

Audien

Audicus

Lively

Eargo

MDHearing

Price
per pair

$99–
$249

$998–
$2,798

$1,195–
$1,995

$1,450–
$2,950

$799–
$1,899

Financing

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Warranty

1 year manufacturer’s warranty

1 year

3 years

1 or 2 years, depending on model

90 days

Battery

Rechargeable

Rechargeable or disposable

Rechargeable or disposable

Rechargeable

Rechargeable or disposable

Bluetooth

No

Yes, depending on model

Yes

Yes, depending on model

Yes, depending on model

Different parts of Medicare, explained

Medicare has four parts: Part A, Part B, Part C (Medicare Advantage), and Part D (prescription drug coverage). Keep reading for an explanation of each part of Medicare, and see our overview of your Medicare plan options.

Medicare Part A and Part B

Medicare Part A covers home health services, hospice care, inpatient hospital care, nursing home care (not covered when custodial care is the only care you need), and skilled nursing facility care.

Medicare Part B covers limited outpatient prescription drugs, clinical research, necessary medical services, preventive services like flu immunizations or diabetes screenings, mental health (inpatient, outpatient, and partial hospitalization), durable medical equipment, and ambulance services.

Medicare Parts A and B do not cover hearing aids or related hearing exams, eyeglass exams, dental care, dentures, routine foot care, acupuncture, cosmetic surgery, or long-term care.

Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage)

Medicare Advantage includes all of the same benefits of Medicare Parts A and B, excluding the clinical trials, hospice services, and other temporary benefits determined by legislation or national coverage. 

But Medicare Advantage adds a private medical insurance plan that is chosen by you based on your needs and budget. Your private insurance plan is then bundled with your original Medicare Part A or B plan, so you have all the benefits of Parts A and B, plus the benefits of your private plan. Any out-of-pocket expenses for the added benefits will be determined by the insurance carrier you choose.

Private insurance companies offer a variety of benefits options, and what one company offers may not be offered by another. But what most Medicare Advantage plans do offer is coverage for vision, hearing, and dental services (coverage may be limited to specific types of procedures), over-the-counter drugs, transportation to doctor visits, services that promote health and wellness, and fitness programs.

Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage)

Medications or drugs covered by Medicare Part D will vary depending on the insurance company, but Part D insurance plans will cover at least two drugs in the most commonly prescribed categories and classes, such as antidepressants and antipsychotics.

According to Medicare.gov, “If you or your prescriber (your doctor or other health care provider who’s legally allowed to write prescriptions) believes none of the drugs on your plan’s formulary (list of covered drugs) will work for your condition, you can ask for an exception.”11

How to apply for Medicare

If you are 65 or older and want to apply for Medicare, you can visit medicare.gov, call 1-800-633-4227, or go in-person to your local Social Security office. “You will need to complete the Form CMS-40B to apply—as well as the CMS L-564, if you are covered under a group plan,” said Ball.

For more information on applying for Medicare for yourself or a loved one, check out our guide on How to Apply for Medicare.

What are over-the-counter hearing aids?

Over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids are intended for people with mild to moderate hearing loss.

In 2017, Congress passed the “Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act” to make it easier for people to buy affordable hearing aids without being required to consult a hearing professional or audiologist.12 Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the availability of OTC hearing aids, and the FDA has not provided a specific date or expected timeline for when OTC hearing aids will be made available to the public.

In July 2021, President Joe Biden issued an executive order asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which includes the FDA, to issue guidance on OTC hearing aids.13 Once the FDA provides its ruling and timeline, consumers will be able to purchase hearing aids at their local pharmacy, without being required to first see an audiologist or hearing professional for a consultation.

Bottom line

Does Medicare cover hearing aids? Unfortunately, the answer is no. 

Medicare is a federal health insurance program for people 65 and older, people with end-stage kidney disease, and younger people with certain types of disabilities. 

Medicare has four parts: Medicare Parts A, B, C, and D. While Medicare Parts A and B do not cover the cost of hearing aids or hearing services related to hearing aids, some Medicare Advantage plans do offer coverage for hearing aids and services, depending on the plan you choose.

In addition, there are different ways to save money on hearing aids, including charitable foundations, local Lions Clubs, and your local area agency on aging.

Frequently Asked Questions

Have questions about this article? Email us at reviewsteam@ncoa.org.

Sources

  1. Obama White House Archives. FDA Takes Action to Deliver Lower-Cost, Innovative Hearing Aids to Millions More Americans. Found on the internet at https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/12/07/fda-takes-action-deliver-lower-cost-innovative-hearing-aids-millions-more-americans
  2. Medicare.gov. What’s not covered by Part A & Part B? Found on the internet at https://www.medicare.gov/what-medicare-covers/whats-not-covered-by-part-a-part-b
  3. Medicare.gov. Medicare Advantage Plans cover all Medicare services. Found on the internet at https://www.medicare.gov/what-medicare-covers/what-medicare-health-plans-cover/medicare-advantage-plans-cover-all-medicare-services
  4. Hearing Loss Association of America. Medicaid. Found on the internet at https://www.hearingloss.org/hearing-help/financial-assistance/medicaid/
  5. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Policy Basics: Introduction to Medicaid. Found on the internet at https://www.cbpp.org/research/health/introduction-to-medicaid
  6. Medicare.gov. Hearing & balance exams. Found on the internet at https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/hearing-balance-exams
  7. Medicare.gov. Medicare Advantage Plans cover all Medicare services. Found on the internet at https://www.medicare.gov/what-medicare-covers/what-medicare-health-plans-cover/medicare-advantage-plans-cover-all-medicare-services
  8. 116th Congress House Bill 576. Seniors Have Eyes, Ears, and Teeth Act. Found on the internet at https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/576/all-info
  9. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Hearing Healthcare for Adults, Priorities for Improving Access and Affordability. Found on the internet at https://doi.org/10.17226/23446
  10. U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. Hearing Aids. Found on the internet at https://www.prosthetics.va.gov/psas/hearing_aids.asp
  11. Medicare.gov, What Medicare Part D drug plans cover. Found on the internet at https://www.medicare.gov/drug-coverage-part-d/what-medicare-part-d-drug-plans-cover
  12. Congress.gov, Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017. Found on the internet at https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/670
  13. The White House. Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy. Found on the internet at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/07/09/executive-order-on-promoting-competition-in-the-american-economy/
  14. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Tinnitus Masking. Found on the internet at https://www.cms.gov/medicare-coverage-database/view/ncd.aspx?ncdid=85&ncdver=1&bc=AIAAEAAAAAAA&=

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