The chances of developing hearing loss increase significantly as we age — particularly as we move into our later years. Approximately one in three Americans between 65 and 74 live with hearing loss, and among those 75 and older, nearly half have hearing problems. As baby boomers enter their golden years, the number of Americans living with hearing loss is set to increase dramatically.
Unfortunately, more than 70 percent of older Americans who have hearing loss in at least one ear do not use a hearing aid, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Why are so many people who would benefit from hearing aids going without them? A likely reason is that hearing aids are costly and may not be covered by insurance.
According to a National Academies of Sciences report on hearing aid access and affordability, the average retail price of two hearing aids is approximately $4,700. That may be far out of the price range for many people. On top of that, original Medicare does not cover hearing aids.
As a result, many people experience sticker shock when they are diagnosed with hearing loss and go shopping for their first hearing aids.
To those in this situation, it’s important to know their options. For example, some Medicare Advantage plans, which are an alternative to original Medicare, do include a hearing aid benefit. My company is among those that offer Medicare Advantage plans in Washington that cover hearing exams and aids.
With the Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Plan annual enrollment period coming up, now would be the time to check the benefits that your current plan offerw for diagnosing and treating hearing loss.
Some plans offer an annual allowance or a fixed co-pay for hearing aids that make the cost much more affordable.
Some also cover visits to hearing professionals for expert fittings and evaluations along with a trial period, warranty and even batteries.
Hearing is an important part of our everyday lives, and hearing loss can have a significant impact on person’s overall health, quality of life, and ability to live independently. Studies have shown that hearing loss can be associated with depression and social isolation among adults 50 and older, and with early onset of dementia.
Catherine Field is Humana’s president for Senior Products in the Intermountain Region, which includes Washington.