Submitted by Catherine Field, Market President, Intermountain Region, Humana
As many of us know well, the chances of developing hearing loss increase significantly as we get older, particularly as we move into our later years. Today, approximately one in three Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 are living with hearing loss. Among those 75 and older, nearly half have hearing problems. With the Baby Boomers entering their golden years, the number of Americans living with hearing loss is set to increase dramatically.
Unfortunately, more than 70 percent of older Americans who have hearing loss in at least one ear could benefit from a hearing aid but do not use one, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Why are so many people who would benefit from hearing aids going without them?
A likely reason is that hearing aids are costly and may not be covered by insurance. According to a recent National Academies of Sciences report on hearing aid access and affordability, the average retail price of two hearing aids is approximately $4,700. That may be far out of range for many people to afford comfortably.
On top of that, Original Medicare does not provide any coverage for hearing aids.
As a result, many people hit sticker shock when they are diagnosed with hearing loss and go shopping for their first hearing aids.
To those who are facing this situation, it’s important to know there are options. For example, some Medicare Advantage plans, which are an alternative to original Medicare, do include a hearing aid benefit that can help bring down the out-of-pocket cost. Humana offers Medicare Advantage plans in Washington that cover hearing exams and aids.
With the Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plan Annual Enrollment Period coming up soon, it would be a good idea to check your current plan benefits and compare them to what other plans cover for diagnosing and treating hearing loss. Some plans offer an annual allowance or a fixed co-pay for hearing aids that make the cost much more affordable. Some also cover visits to hearing professionals for expert fittings and evaluations along with a trial period, warranty and even batteries.
Hearing is an important part of our everyday lives, and hearing loss can have a significant impact on person’s overall health, quality of life, and ability to live independently. Studies have shown that hearing loss can be associated with depression and social isolation among adults age 50 and older, and with early onset of dementia. Hearing loss also triples a person’s risk of falling because hearing as well as sight are needed to maintain a sense of balance.
If you don’t see coverage for hearing aids included in your Medicare plan’s benefits, you might want to consider looking for a plan that does include a hearing aid benefit when you are next able to enroll. It could end up making a big difference to your health, well-being and quality of life.
Catherine Field is Humana’s President for Senior Products in the Intermountain Region, which includes Washington state.