In the past, most insurance companies have not covered even a small portion of the cost of hearing aids. I believe this is because in the past hearing aids were not considered a medical necessity. Hearing aids were also initially sold by a door to door salesman who did not have the respect from doctors that audiologists are now gaining in the health field.
Doctors are finally realizing that an untreated hearing loss can lead to more health issues than they once thought. Many studies are showing that if someone has a hearing loss and chooses to not wear a hearing aid that they are much more likely to fall, become depressed or anxious and even decline cognitively. Not being able to hear well increases the stress on our brains and has been shown in studies to have a direct impact on our overall health and this can result in the increased costs of health care, especially in the elderly population.
So why don’t insurance companies help pay for hearing aids? I am happy to say that is changing now as many Medicare supplements are starting to cover a small portion of the cost of hearing aids. For example, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota’s Platinum Blue Medicare Supplement covers $450 a year for hearing aids and batteries. Other supplements like Medica and UCare also offer a stipend of sorts to help Medicare recipients get help in the purchase of hearing instruments.
Larger employers such as Mayo Clinic are now offering insurance for hearing aids. America’s PPO is the insurance company used by Mayo Health Systems for the benefit that many Mayo Employees can take advantage of if they need hearing aids.
Some companies are going the route of adding a “benefit” for their employees through large hearing aid buying groups. Groups such as Amplifon and TruHearing do not provide the actual hearing aid services but merely try to find a provider near a large employer to provide the services to the company’s employees. Typically they really don’t offer a large savings for the consumer but will say up to 50% off MSRP or free batteries for a period of time. This really is not a big savings if you compare the costs from your local hearing aid dealer. I even had a gentleman come to see me because his insurance company, United Health Group, shipped him a hearing aid as part of his benefit but he did not know how to use it or how to put it in his ear. Most individuals who wear hearing aids would be better served to see an audiologist that is near them rather than traveling an hour or so to get help with their hearing aids.
It is my belief that more insurance companies will be providing the benefit of having coverage for the cost of hearing aids. So don’t just assume you have no insurance for hearing aids. Call your insurance company and ask if you have a benefit for the purchase of hearing instruments. You might be surprised!