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Why Won’t Insurance Companies Pay for Hearing Aids?

Even though as many as one in five Americans over the age of 12 suffers from some form of hearing loss in one or both ears, the cost of hearing aids is rarely covered by either Medicare or private health insurance.  Even when an insurance policy covers hearing, this usually means insurance will pay for a doctor’s examination or contribute a fraction of the cost for hearing aids.  Only 20 states require some form of coverage for children.  Three states require some form of coverage for adults.

Why?  Because hearing impairment is not officially recognized as a disability by the insurance industry.images2

Many of us would be surprised to learn that hearing impairment does not qualify as a disability for insurance purposes.  Medicare does cover the cost of hearing aids, but only if hearing loss is due to a specific disease or injury.  Medicare Part B covers the cost of a diagnostic exam, but only if ordered by a doctor.

In general, however, Medicare and private insurance classify hearing aids as “elective,” on the same level as plastic surgery and teeth whitening.  Ironic, considering Viagra for ED is covered by most insurance plans.  Extremely unjust, considering that due to the high cost of hearing aids — $1,000 to $6,000 per ear, plus periodic adjustment and replacement—without the help of their insurance, few families can afford something so essential.  Hearing problems can lead to isolation, depression, and even dementia in adults.

While an adults’ struggle with hearing loss and the costs involved seems unfair, the situation is even more irritating when it comes to hearing aids for children. hearing-aid Hearing is essential for a child’s development of speech, language, and social skills.  Children can feel even more isolated and depressed if their hearing loss goes unaided or unaddressed.  While generally as expensive as adult hearing aids, children’s hearing aids may require more adjustment and replacement as they grow and develop.  This only makes the price higher and places hearing aids further out of reach for more families.

Currently in the U.S., 16 states require private health care plans to pay for all or some of the costs related to hearing aids for children, three states require coverage for both children and adults, and Wisconsin requires plans that cover both hearing aids and cochlear implants for children.  However, state requirements vary in terms of ages covered, extent of coverage, and provider qualifications.  For example, Colorado requires coverage for children under 18; Connecticut only requires coverage up to the age of 12.

There are bill initiatives in several states to mandate hearing aid coverage for children.  There are very few initiatives aimed at obtaining coverage for adults, especially when the insurance industry invariably threatens higher premiums.

It makes no sense for insurance not to cover the cost of hearing aids.  It also makes no sense to classify getting a hearingInsurance_Card aid – whether for a child or an adult- at the same level as getting liposuction or a butt lift.  It does not make sense to declare that being able to hear clearly is not a necessity, especially for a child, just to save some money and satisfy corporate greed.

Angry yet? The problem is bound to get worse and affect many more people as baby boomers age and experience hearing loss.  Chances are that most people reading this do not know whether or to what extent their insurance plan covers hearing loss.  Chances are you are not covered.  Chances are also that a portion of people reading this has some form of hearing loss already.

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About Adam Bernstein

Adam Bernstein is the owner of The Hearing Professionals, Milwaukee's premier hearing healthcare facility. As the owner of The Hearing Professionals, Mr. Bernstein has over 20 years of experience in the hearing healthcare industry. He began his career in 1995 at GN Danavox, one of the largest hearing aid manufacturers in the world. After leaving Danavox, Mr. Bernstein opened two hearing healthcare offices in Chicago, IL. In 2001 he moved to Milwaukee, WI and opened The Hearing Professionals. In 2008 he added a second Wisconsin office in the town of Brookfield. Today The Hearing Professionals is the largest private audiology practice in SE Wisconsin. Mr. Bernstein has written numerous articles on hearing healthcare which has appeared in newspapers throughout the country and has been interviewed by news programs regarding advances in the hearing industry. Mr. Bernstein a member of Unitron’s Customer Advisory Board and a graduate of The University of Minnesota. You can email him at adam@icanhearthat.com and you can visit The Hearing Professionals at www.icanhearthat.com.

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