Dear Savvy Senior: Are there any resources or programs that help seniors with the high cost of hearing aids?
--Can't Afford To Hear
It's unfortunate, but millions of Americans with hearing loss don't get hearing aids because they simply can't afford them. Hearing aids are expensive, typically costing between $1,000 and $3,500 per ear, and most insurance companies, including traditional Medicare, don't cover them. While there's no one simple solution to finding affordable hearing aids, there are a variety of options you can look into that can help.
Your first step is to check with your health insurance provider to see if it provides any hearing aid coverage.
If you're a Medicare beneficiary, you need to know that while original Medicare (Part A and B) and Medicare supplemental policies do not cover hearing aids, some Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans do. If you have an Advantage plan, you'll need to check with your plan administrator.
Medicaid also covers hearing aids in some states to people with very limited means. Your county social service office can give you more information.
Or, if you're a federal employee or retiree, hearing aid coverage may be available through some insurance plans in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Or if you're a veteran, the VA provides free hearing aids if you meet certain conditions such as being compensated for any serviced-connected disability or if your hearing loss is connected to military service. See va.gov or call 877-222-8387 to check your eligibility.
Depending on your income level, there are various programs and foundations that provide financial assistance for hearing aids to people in need. Start by calling your state rehabilitation department (see www.parac.org/svrp.html for contact information), or the nearest chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America to find out if there are any city, county or state programs, or local civic organizations that could help.
There are also a number of nonprofits that offer hearing aids at deeply discounted prices, or for free. Some good ones to check out include:
HEAR Now: Sponsored by the Starkey Hearing Foundation (800-328-8602), this program provides hearing aids for people with net incomes below $19,058 for a single or $25,743 for couples. Your only costs are a hearing test and an application fee of $125 per hearing aid request.
Lions Affordable Hearing Aid Project: Offered through some Lions clubs throughout the U.S., this program provides the opportunity to purchase new, digital hearing aids manufactured by Rexton for $200 per aid, plus shipping. To be eligible, most clubs will require your income to be somewhere below 200 percent of the federal poverty level which is $22,340 for singles, or $30,260 for couples. Contact your local Lions club to see if they participate in this project.
Sertoma: A civic service organization that runs a hearing aid recycling program through its 500 clubs nationwide, refurbishes them, and distributes them to local people in need. Call 800-593-5646 or visit sertoma.org to locate a club in your area.
Audient: This program (audientalliance.org, 866-956-5400) helps people purchase new, digital hearing aids at reduced prices ranging from $495 to $975 for one hearing aid or $990 to $1,575 for a pair. To be eligible, your income must be below $27,075 for a single or $36,425 for couples.
For a list of more programs, visit the Better Hearing Institute website at betterhearing.org, and click on "Hearing Loss Resources," then on "Financial Assistance." Or, call the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders at 800-241-1044 and ask them to mail you their list of financial resources for hearing aids.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of "The Savvy Senior" book.