Can You Afford Hearing Aids?
By: Dr. Lori Biasotti
Do you need hearing aids but cannot afford them? I see this each and everyday. Many people who would benefit from wearing hearing aids don’t pursue them because of cost. Hearing aids range from, on average, $1000-$3500. What makes them so expensive? Hearing aids house a great deal of technology in a small package. They do not just amplify sound. Hearing aids amplify soft, medium and loud sounds independently. They are programmed by a computer and react to sounds according to your hearing loss. Today’s technology samples the environment and brings speech over competing non-speech sounds. Also, prior to launching a new circuit, much research and development takes place. Of course none of this technology is helpful if we cannot get in on a person for financial reasons.
Some health insurance plans, or union benefits, pay for at least part of hearing aids. Check your coverage.
Children with hearing loss may qualify for funding through Early Intervention Programs or other programs of the State Department of Health.
People with low income may qualify for Medicaid. Medicaid provides coverage for at least one basic hearing aid.
People of working age may qualify for financial assistance through Vocational rehabilitation programs.
Veterans of military service often qualify for hearing aids.
Local or national Lions Clubs will sometimes assist people with low income to obtain hearing aids.
Starkey, a hearing aid manufacturer, has a program called Hear Now. If you qualify, Starkey donated the hearing aids and local audiologists donate their time. You just pay a small application fee.
The first step is to have a hearing evaluation done by an audiolgist. This testing is usually covered by insurance, sometimes requiring a doctor’s referral. Many audiologists will help to inform you of at least some of these options. Also, if you cannot afford the $4500 or $6000 pair of hearing aids, inquire about more basic, affordable options. A mid-range hearing aid will be between $2000-$2500 each. A basic or “entry level” hearing aid will be $1000-$1500.
If these basic or entry level options are not presented, then ask, or go to another office. If it is a matter of wearing a less advanced hearing aid, due to financial restraints, this is certainly better than no hearing aid. On the other hand, a hearing aid is less than $1000, will likely not be using at least some of today’s technology.
If two hearing aids are recommended, then this is ideally the way to go. Having said that, one hearing aid is better than no hearing aid. The easiest way to cut costs is to go from two hearing aids to one. One entry level hearing aid should be less than $100 a month, closer to $50 for 18 months. Many offices offer 0% financing, if you qualify.
I also want to mention that if your health insurance offers a discount plan, partial hearing aid reimbursement or uses a middle company for its hearing aid plan, don’t feel that you are limited to only be helped by the offices on their “list”. Call around and ask the office you would like to go if they will match your hearing aid benefit. Often the senior discount plans are only attractive to offices who do not have many other referral sources or are not very busy. Because of the amount they charge upfront for referrals, or per hearing aid, many offices would prefer to match their prices than to be labeled a “participating provider”. Also, please beware of mail/internet order hearing aids or even some insurance plans that have you purchase your hearing aids online. Your hearing aid is only as good as the audiologist who fits you. You won’t save that much money and you are likely to have questions along the way and a live audiologist is much better than a customer service representative on the phone.