How to Maximize the Benefits of Medicare Advantage for Senior Hearing Health

Hearing loss affects almost half of all seniors in the US. If you want to make sure you have coverage for hearing aids and your overall hearing health care, you need to choose the right Medicare Advantage plan very carefully.

Medicare and Medicaid provide vital health services for older adults across the US. The problem is, what’s considered ‘vital’ varies state-to-state, and what’s more; the thinking behind excluding hearing aids from coverage is based on decisions made over 50 years ago.

When the original Medicare became law in 1965, Congress decided to exclude items that were “routinely needed and low in cost” – on the grounds that such items could be easily paid for by patients. While this perhaps made financial sense at the time, the number of people with clinical hearing loss doubles with every generation – and the potentially catastrophic impact of hearing loss on overall health is now fully understood. 

Fortunately, Medicare Advantage fills many of the gaps that traditional Medicare coverage leaves. In fact, more than 22 million Medicare beneficiaries opt for Medicare Advantage health plans – and the benefits they can offer continue to grow year on year.

What does Medicare Advantage cover?

Of course, no two people’s health care provider requirements are exactly the same – so to understand whether you’ll maximize the benefits of a Medicare Advantage plan, it’s useful to fully understand what you’ll be covered for. 

You’ll need to read each provider’s information carefully to understand exactly what’s included – along with any limitations, but generally speaking, Medicare Advantage packages entitle you to:

  • Dental care
  • Vision care
  • Hearing health care and hearing aids
  • Gym memberships
  • Transport
  • Pharmacy allowance
  • Home calls
  • Support

Hearing Health and Hearing Aids

As we’ve already touched upon – Medicare Part A specifically excludes hearing aids and almost all audiologist services from coverage. Step up to Medicare Part B, and hearing tests are covered if you’ve been through a primary care provider (PCP) referral process – but you might have to be prepared for months of waiting.

So, with Medicare as it stands; you’re very unlikely to get access to hearing services at all – so you probably won’t be surprised to discover that Medicare simply will not provide hearing aids. 

This apparent lack of consideration for hearing aids could lead you to believe that hearing loss is little more than an inconvenience for the 48 million Americans who suffer with it – but the reality is much more severe. An American Academy of Audiology study into the impact of hearing loss found that untreated hearing loss was linked to depression and social isolation in seniors and a recent Harvard study showed links between hearing loss and declining cognitive function and hypertension in seniors.

Beyond the age of 65, there’s a 1 in 3 (33%) chance that you will experience the level of hearing loss that requires a hearing aid. When you reach 75, that has increased to a 1 in 2 (50%) chance. Given the increasing prevalence of hearing loss in seniors, the odds don’t look good for coming generations – especially if they rely on standard Medicare packages for their hearing health needs.

The message around hearing health is clear. If you want to make sure you’ve covered – and that poor hearing health doesn’t have a detrimental impact on your overall physical and mental well-being, then a Medicare Advantage plan is the logical next step. 

Be aware, not all Medicare Advantage plans offer the same level of hearing health care. That said, a well-designed plan will cover you for regular hearing exams (sometimes including having a hearing professional visit you) and the cost of your hearing aids.

Preventing Delays

Of course, cost isn’t the only barrier a good plan will help you overcome – there’s also the matter of time to consider. While the support offered by Medicare Part B includes more than Part A coverage, the processes involved with accessing that support can be incredibly time-consuming. The trouble is, it’s very difficult to pinpoint how long these delays can be state-to-state – but, as we’ve already mentioned, it’s not uncommon to wait months before you’ll get to take a hearing test.

On the face of it, waiting months for a hearing test might not seem like an enormous problem – but, if this is what you’re thinking, be careful that you’re not being swayed by old fashioned attitudes towards hearing loss. With indisputable links to dementia and other mental health issues, it’s important that hearing health is given the priority treatment it deserves.

With Virtual Hearing Solutions, there’s are no delays between any initial concerns you might have about you hearing – and access to accurate audiology assessments. Our online tests and resources are always available – and formal hearing tests can be administered remotely – making sure your overall health is never put at risk.

How Can Virtual Hearing Solutions Help?

Medicare Advantage has a potentially enormous range of benefits over Original Medicare plans. Clearly, not all of those will be relevant for all seniors, but access to hearing services is increasingly becoming the most called-for benefit on the list.

With this in mind, it’s worth considering what Virtual Hearing Solutions can offer, whether you’re seeking better hearing for yourself, a loved one, or people you provide care for.

Perhaps one of the most important parts of hearing health care is the detection of issues in the first instance. Many people go through life without realizing they have a hearing issue – and when hearing slowly deteriorates, seniors can find significant impairments ‘creep up’ on them.

Whether you’re looking for a home or nursing home visit, Virtual Hearing Solutions can help. We recognize that many seniors have reduced mobility – so we can make sure audiologists or hearing professionals conduct that examinations that are needed, as frequently as needed.

Of course, Virtual Hearing Solutions professionals don’t just examine. Overall hearing health is discussed, and support around ear wax removal is provided. Discussions around on-going reviews can be had – and recommendations can be made – both for the patient and those who provide any support.

If hearing aids are required, we can help again. Not only will we make sure we find the very best device for the patient, but we’ll handle the insurance claim process and paperwork – as well as assisting with financing where required. We know the process of making sure hearing health is looked after might not always feel straightforward, but with Virtual Hearing Solutions on your side – it couldn’t be simpler.  

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Tyrone Moore

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