As we age, our likelihood of encountering health issues tends to increase, and hearing problems are no exception. Hearing aids are common among seniors, and the costs associated with them can be quite substantial. Unfortunately, many older Americans are shocked to learn that Medicare does not, in fact, offer hearing aid coverage. If you're enrolled in traditional Medicare and find that you need a hearing aid, it'll be on you to pay for it. Thankfully, there are certain options you can explore to make the cost of hearing aids more manageable.
Medicare: Not a perfect system
Though countless seniors rely on Medicare for health coverage in retirement, the program's scope of coverage is somewhat limited. In addition to not paying for hearing aids, Medicare also doesn't cover common services like vision and dental care, leaving seniors on the hook for what could be some pretty sizable costs.
Medicare is particularly stingy when it comes to all things hearing-related. Not only won't it cover hearing aids, but it also won't pay for hearing exams to determine whether enrollees need them. The problem, of course, is that hearing services can be rather pricey. The average cost of a digital hearing aid and its associated fittings ranges from $1,500 all the way up to $5,000, according to the National Institutes of Health.
There are certain instances in which Medicare will provide some hearing coverage. If your doctor orders a diagnostic hearing and balance exam to see if you need medical treatment for a particular condition, then Part B will typically cover its cost. But you'll still be on the hook for 20% of what those services cost, plus any applicable deductible. (Note that this is a function of how Part B works, and isn't necessarily unique to hearing services alone.)
Affording hearing services as a senior
If you're concerned about swinging the cost of a hearing aid and its associated diagnostics and fittings, you're not alone. But don't assume you'll fall back on a Medigap plan. Also known as Medicare Supplement Insurance, Medigap's purpose is to fill in coverage gaps when original Medicare falls short. Unfortunately, Medigap won't cover services like hearing aids, dental care, or vision care.
But don't despair -- there's still a way to get your hearing aids covered in retirement, and it's to enroll in Medicare Advantage. Most Medicare Advantage plans coverage hearing services in addition to dental and vision, and in some cases, you might actually pay less for an Advantage plan than you would for traditional Medicare.
Now the only catch is that you'll typically need to use an audiologist within your plan's network if you want your hearing services covered under Medicare Advantage, but that's often how standard health insurance works as well. Furthermore, you may be subject to a copayment for your hearing aid or services, as well as an annual limit on what your Advantage plan will pay toward your hearing aid or services. But again, anyone who's ever had health insurance should be more than familiar with these parameters.
If you're worried about paying for hearing aids in retirement, you should explore your options for an Advantage plan and see if that route makes financial sense. Furthermore, it pays to read up on Medicare and learn about the services it will and won't cover. This way, you can take steps to plan and save accordingly.