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Does your Medicare pay for hearing aids?

Doctor sitting in her office talking to an older male patient.
Doctor sitting in her office talking to an older male patient. Luis Alvarez via Getty Images

If you're in talks with your doctor about getting a hearing aid for mild to severe hearing loss, you know that many quality hearing aids aren't cheap -- especially if you try to go through your insurance for a device. If you're over the age of 65, you may be wondering if Medicare can help: Will your insurance plan cover the cost of a new hearing aid? Or will you need to pay out of pocket for the device you likely need for an improved quality of life?

Before we look at Medicare and other possible insurance coverage options, make sure you've taken the time to consider over-the-counter, or OTC hearing aids. These devices tend to be cheaper than prescription-grade hearing aids, and with brands constantly innovating new and more advanced models, it's not a stretch to say there's a great and affordable pair of OTC hearing aids out there for you. Take a look at the chart below to compare prices, then read on for more pricing and coverage information about hearing aids.

The average cost of hearing aids was around $4,600 as of 2018, but these days a pair of prescription-grade hearing aids can cost anywhere from $1,000 to more than $8,000 a pair. OTC hearing aids can set you back a few hundred dollars.

Now let's look at what Medicare does and does not cover, plus other insurance coverage possibilities for hearing aids.

Does Medicare cover hearing aids?

Basic Medicare does not cover most types of hearing aids or fittings for hearing aids. That includes Original Medicare (Part A and B). While Medicare Parts A and B do not cover hearing exams specifically for the purpose of buying a new hearing aid, they do cover exams for diagnostic purposes that include a doctor's referral. In this case, you pay 20% of the final amount after the deductible and any copayments.

There may also be some limited exceptions for Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans.

Medicare has four parts, with Parts A and B making up what's known as Original Medicare -- a federally provided health plan with more traditional medical and hospital insurance coverage options. Parts C and D are a little different and exist independently of Original Medicare. Here is a breakdown of the Medicare plans and services that are available today:

  • Medicare Part A: Hospital insurance. This can cover expenses related to hospital stays, nursing facility care, hospice care, and some additional health care benefits.
  • Medicare Part B: Medical insurance. This covers the things you'd expect with most medical insurance plans including select doctors' services, outpatient care, medical supplies, and some preventative services.
  • Medicare Part C: Medicare Advantage. These Medicare coverage plans are provided by private companies that have contracts with Medicare and are therefore not federally provided. These plans still include Parts A and B but may include additional benefits (see below).
  • Medicare Part D: Prescription drug coverage. This Medicare Supplement plan covers the cost of prescription drugs, as well as many recommended shots and vaccines.

What does the Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C) cover?

Some Medicare Advantage Plans do offer extra benefits not covered by Original Medicare. This can include costs related to vision, hearing and dental services. Private companies like Humana offer 2024 Medicare Advantage plans with hearing and other benefits in addition to Medicare Parts A and B.

These added benefits may include coverage for hearing aids and related services such as a hearing exam with an audiologist. Talk with your doctor to find out what you may need in terms of hearing aid devices and services, then consider browsing the different types of Medicare Advantage Plans out there such as a health maintenance organization (HMO), preferred provider organization (PPO), and more.

If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan already and are unsure of whether or not you're covered for hearing aids, contact your insurance company or a Medicare representative at 1-800-MEDICARE for more information.

What medical coverage options are there for people who need hearing aids?

Medicare coverage does not extend to prescription-grade or OTC hearing aids, but there is some leeway for another category: hearing implants. Medicare Part B may cover 80% of the cost for cochlear implants -- small, permanent hearing devices that replace damaged portions of the ear -- for those who qualify. Hearing implants are different from hearing aids in that they replicate or imitate incoming sounds, instead of amplifying them, for people with severe or complete hearing loss. 

Going back to the question of insurance coverage for hearing aids, there are some plans that may offer more coverage than Medicare. Insurance providers like Aetna, Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, Humana and United Healthcare all offer certain benefits that could apply to hearing aids -- but what is available to you varies depending on things like the severity of hearing loss and the state you live in.

How much do hearing aids cost without insurance?

The world of prescription hearing aids remains largely unchanged, with prices commonly climbing into the thousands. Offered up by an audiologist or other qualified specialist, these devices come with a price tag that includes things like professional fitting services, device programming, and follow-up visits. This typically costs upwards of $1,000 per hearing aid, with some costing $8,000 or more a piece.

One increasingly popular way to save money on hearing aids is to purchase them directly. OTC hearing aids like the impressive Jabra Enhance Select 50R ($995 and up) are a relatively new category where customers can get their hands on decent devices for much lower costs -- typically less than $1,000 a pair. These commonly come with less robust tech features (making them ideal for people with mild to moderate hearing loss) and none of the complex extras that you get with a prescription hearing aid. 

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