By Jim Miller
Dear Savvy Senior,
I’ve heard that hearing aids will soon be available over-the-counter and will be much cheaper than they currently are. What can you tell me about this? My husband desperately needs hearing aids but we simply can’t afford them.
Unfortunately, for many years the high cost of hearing aids has kept millions of Americans with hearing loss from getting hearing aids because they can’t afford them.
Hearing aids — typically sold through audiologists’ offices — are expensive, usually ranging between $1,000 and $4,000 per ear, and are not typically covered by private insurance or traditional Medicare.
But there’s good news on the horizon. Last summer President Trump signed the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 into law. This will allow people with mild to moderate hearing loss to buy hearing aids without consulting an audiologist, and the devices could sell for between $250 and $300 at drugstores and other retailers.
The only problem is that it will be a couple more years before these OTC hearing aids are available to consumers. So in the meantime, here are some tips that can help you find some affordable options.
Check Your Insurance
While most private health insurance companies do not cover hearing aids, there are some that do. For example, Aetna members can purchase aids at a discount through certain suppliers, and United Healthcare offers hearing aids to their beneficiaries through HealthInnovations for $799 to $999 each.
You should also know that some federal workers, as well as residents of Arkansas, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island can get their hearing aids covered by health insurance, as can eligible veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Or, if your husband is a Medicare recipient, about half of all Medicare Advantage plans offer at least partial coverage or discounts on hearing exams and devices. So, be sure you check your husband’s insurance coverage to see if it offers any type of hearing aid benefit.
A new law will allow people with mild to moderate hearing loss to buy hearing aids without consulting an audiologist, and the devices could sell for $250 to $300 at drugstores. Problem is, these OTC hearing aids will only be available to consumers in about two years.
To help you save money, consider shopping at Costco, which offers no-cost screenings at certain locations, as well as very competitive prices. Hearing aids at Costco range between $500 and $1,500 each. You can also shop online at websites like EmbraceHearing.com and Audicus.com, which can save you up to $2,000 per pair. Then visit a local specialist to make any necessary adjustments.
Another option worth a look is over-the-counter personal sound amplification products (or PSAPs). Unlike hearing aids, the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate PSAPs. And PSAP manufacturers are not allowed to call these products hearing aids or claim that they help hearing. But these devices are very effective for people with mild to moderate hearing impairment, and typically cost between $350 and $450 each. To find a wide variety of PSAPs see assistive listening sites like Harris Communications (HarrisComm.com, or call 866-476-9579).
Look For Assistance
If your income is low, there is a number of national, state and independent groups that can help you pay for hearing aids or offer discounts. To find them, visit the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website at ASHA.org/public/coverage/audfundingresources. Or, call the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders at 800-241-1044, and ask them to mail you their list of financial resources for hearing aids.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.