The number one call for help that HLAA receives – via phone, email and in person – is financial assistance for the purchase of hearing aids. One son called for mom who is in her 80’s, who had two hearing aids until they both died at the same time. They were struggling to find a way to replace them. Most seniors who age into their hearing loss are simply floored when they learn that Medicare does not cover the cost of hearing aids.
HLAA believes that seniors with hearing loss should not have to scrimp and save, or go without basic needs, to just be able to hear. Seniors on fixed incomes, seniors who depend on Social Security and Medicare, seniors who don’t qualify for Medicaid or who live in states that don’t provide hearing aids through Medicaid, should not have to choose between hearing and their other basic needs.
That’s why HLAA is supporting the Help Extend Auditory Relief Act of 2013, HR 3150, the HEAR Act, introduced in the US House of Representatives by Pennsylvania Representative Matt Cartwright September 19, 2013. This legislation would:
- amend the Social Security Act to include Medicare coverage for hearing rehabilitation, including a comprehensive audiology assessment to determine if a hearing aid is appropriate, a threshold test to determine audio acuity, and various services associated with fitting, adjusting, and using hearing aids.
- extend Medicare coverage to hearing aids, defining them as any wearable instrument or device for compensating for hearing loss.
In our letter to Representative Cartwright, we note:
- Nearly 17% of all Americans report a hearing loss, including a third of all individuals over the age of 65. Hearing loss is not a benign condition: recent studies reveal a linkage between untreated hearing loss and dementia, a greater incidence of balance problems and falls, and greater incidence of stress-related diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
- Currently, Medicare Part B only covers hearing rehabilitation services for cases caused by an illness or accident. Progressive, age-related hearing loss is not covered, leaving many seniors to pay for their own hearing exams and hearing aids. Hearing aids are incredibly expensive, ranging from $600 to over $5,000 each. These high price tags discourage many seniors from seeking a very basic solution that could dramatically improve their lives.
In short, the cost of treatment for hearing loss can be prohibitively high. But the cost of doing nothing can be higher. People with hearing loss need basic access to hearing aids, regardless of their financial situation.
HLAA understands that asking Congress to approve Medicare coverage of hearing aids is not an easy task: it may take years. Rest assured, we are in this for the long haul. We’re supporting this legislation not because it’s the easy thing to do, but because it’s the right thing to do.