So, you have decided that you may have a hearing loss. Maybe you noticed that you are asking people to repeat things more often, or family members have encouraged you to get a test. Congratulations, you now start your journey toward better hearing. As you begin your research you will discover that while hearing aids may be covered by a Medicare Advantage plan or available free to Veterans, they are not typically covered by health insurance or traditional Medicare and prices for hearing aids vary greatly.
Let’s discuss price and what contributes to the cost. The total price of hearing aid is determined by adding up the basic components:
Hearing aids are medical devices and continual improvement requires extensive research and development as well as sophisticated manufacturing equipment. They are regulated in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration. All these factors require investment and influence the manufacturing cost of the devices.
Another component that drives the difference in pricing is the professional services that are included with the hearing aids. We recommend that your first step be to find a licensed hearing care professional and have a complete hearing test to determine the nature and severity of your hearing loss. Not all hearing loss is the same. It can vary from mild to moderate or severe to profound and this will determine the type of device you will need. The hearing care professional will also ask about your lifestyle, places you have difficulty hearing (like noisy restaurants or watching the TV) and how important the cosmetics of the hearing aids are to you. These answers and your degree of hearing loss will drive the level of technology and the style of the devices that would work best for you. For those with active lifestyles, features like directional microphones, noise reduction, connectivity to phones and music, and possibly apps and other accessories may be necessary. These features are typically found in products with the highest level technology and lead to higher costs. If cosmetics are important for you, the smaller in-the-ear or completely-in-canal devices will also be at the top of the pricing structure.
Another main driver of price is warranty on the product and the services or follow up visits that are included. Most hearing aids have at least one year warranty with many having a standard two- or three-year warranty. This warranty generally covers any repairs that need to be made to the hearing aids and is provided by the manufacturer. The visits to the office are provided by the hearing care professional and may be included with the initial purchase or may be offered as a single cost or service/office visit plan options in increments of two or three years.
Health insurance, and specifically Medicare, usually does not cover hearing aids. Under original Medicare, hearing, dental and vision have been statutorily excluded since the program began. If you are a Veteran, you may qualify for free hearing aids. Check your coverage as some private health insurance policies provide a benefit towards hearing aids and many Medicare Advantage plans provide a wide variety of coverage options that include dental, vision and hearing aids.
While you may have heard about Over-The-Counter (OTC) hearing aids, the FDA has not yet released the regulation under which OTC hearing aids are to be sold, and therefore no self-fitting hearing aids should sold as OTC devices. There are also hearing aids that are sold online as Direct to Consumer (DTC). It is always best to start your hearing health journey with an in-person visit to a hearing care professional to be certain that you have a hearing loss and not an underlying issue. It will also help you to understand how to best treat your unique hearing loss and achieve a proper fitting of your device. Following that visit you may find that some services may be appropriately provided via tele-audiology and many hearing care professionals continue to innovate to provide tele-audiology. To find a professional near you, visit our hearing care professional finder here.
Your hearing is essential so Hear Well, Stay Vital!