How Medicare and Medicaid Can Interfere with the Hearing Health of Your Loved One

Have you got a loved one who’s over the age of 65, on a very low income, or considered to have a disability? If so, you might think that Medicare or Medicaid is there as a safety net to help with all hearing loss issues.

In fact, while both programs can have some element of hearing health support, that coverage can be minimal – but it often leads people into a false sense of security. If you assume your loved one’s hearing health is going to be looked after by either Medicare or Medicaid, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise.

It’s important to understand what hearing aids coverage you can expect from health services and health insurance plans. When you do, you can decide if it’s worth exploring some alternatives; especially when hearing health can be such a significant issue for a person’s overall well-being.  

Which other medical issues can hearing loss lead to?

If you’re wondering what the result of patchy or non-existent cover for hearing aids has on the quality of life experienced by millions of Americans – be warned; this next section makes for bleak reading.

Studies have found that 75% of people who require a hearing aid simply do not have one – which, according to HLAA figures, means somewhere upwards of 20 million adults are suffering from impaired hearing that could be treatable. To make matters worse, a recent Harvard study linked this level of hearing loss to an increased risk of dementia and decline in cognitive function across 20,193 people over a 2-year period.

The sad fact is, this isn’t just preventable through hearing aid use – an American Journal of Epidemiology study showed that hearing aids can actually relieve the symptoms of Alzheimer’s – slowing the rate of memory decline and improving the overall quality of life for people with the condition.

1

So, a lack of hearing aid provision stands a very real possibility of contributing towards dementia in tens of millions of Americans – and prevents those with the condition showing any improvements; but these aren’t the only issues people with hearing loss face. The American Academy of Audiology highlights a study that clearly links hearing loss with depression, anxiety, and paranoia – as well a reduction in likeliness that the person whose hearing is impacted would participate in social events.

2

Why Are Hearing Aid Benefits Often Missing?

While obviously life-changing, the deterioration or loss of a person’s hearing has traditionally been considered less significant than other sensory health issues – sight loss for instance. As well as being treated as less significant, hearing issues are exceptionally common. The trouble is, ‘common’ generally equals ‘payout’ for insurance companies, so you can probably see why support around hearing loss is something that’s often missing from coverage.

The trouble is, this approach doesn’t just leave people turning to closed captioning – it can have a profound impact on many other health areas; meaning people who are experiencing hearing issues can also be left extremely vulnerable.

Does Medicaid Cover Hearing Aids?

As you’re probably already aware, Medicaid is a state and federal government program that offers health coverage for those with very low income. While it’s not fair to say that Medicaid sidesteps hearing health and hearing aid costs completely – coverage does vary significantly from state to state.

Across the United States, Medicaid is required to offer hearing related tests for those aged 21 and younger – however, there is no coverage required for people beyond this age. In fact, the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) reports that across 20 states, there is no hearing aid coverage at all – and in the remaining 30, hearing aid services are often either limited to very small numbers of people or involve complex and lengthy audiology referrals and sign-offs.

Does Medicare Cover Hearing Aids?

While California Medicaid (aka Medi-Cal) does partially cover hearing aids for many long term care patients, Medicaid coverage for hearing aids differs from state to state, the Medicare approach is far more consistent and easier to understand – put simply; there isn’t one.

While Medicare guarantees health insurance coverage for all Americans over the age of 65, it specifically excludes hearing aids and most audiologist services from coverage – even as you pay for additional services, like Medicare Part B for example. With the right primary care provider (PCP) referral, Medicare will cover the cost of hearing tests – but it’s only with a Medicare Advantage Plan that you may get further options and access specialist hearing services.

The HLLA is in the early stages of introducing bills to Congress, the House, and the Senate designed to change this lack of cover – but, by the organization’s own admission, it’s likely to be a long time before these bills receive serious consideration.

Alternative Hearing Aid Coverage Options

The evidence is stark; reliance on Medicare, Medicaid, and even some private insurance programs are leaving millions of Americans facing a range of chronic and degenerative physical and mental health concerns.

The question is, where do you turn if the hearing of a loved one is becoming a cause for concern and you don’t want to risk their long-term health?

With Virtual Hearing Solutions (VHS) hearing aid, you can access FDA approved cutting-edge hearing services at 40%-60% off traditional prices. It’s not just the cost of hearing aids that’s helped VHS customers improve their overall health though; with two free consultations with an Audiologist or Hearing Professional and a no interest, no payment loan for seven months – we’re doing everything we can to make hearing services affordable for millions more people. There are also a number of state-specific charities that can help to subsidize the cost of hearing aids – although even with subsidies, you’re likely to find that VHS options are still the more competitively priced choice.

Whichever route to better hearing health and care is right for you and your loved one, it makes sense to act sooner, rather than later. While poor hearing health was once seen as a mild inconvenience – it’s becoming more and more apparent that it can have life-changing implications if left untreated any longer than is necessary.

  1. Curhan, SG, et al. Longitudinal study of self-reported hearing loss and subjective cognitive function decline in women. Alzheimers Dement. 2019 Oct.
  2. Deal, JA, et al. Hearing Impairment and Cognitive Decline: A Pilot Study Conducted Within the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Neurocognitive Study. American Journal of Epidemiology, May 2015.
Posted in

Tyrone Moore

Reader Interactions