Dear Savvy Senior: I’ve heard that cheaper hearing aids will soon be available over-the-counter. My husband needs hearing aids but we can’t afford them. — Searching Spouse
Dear Searching: Unfortunately, for many years the high cost of hearing aids has prevented millions of Americans from getting hearing aids.
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 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 $250-$300 at drugstores and other retailers.
It will be a couple more years before these hearing aids are available. So in the meantime, here are some tips.
Check your insurance
While most health insurance companies do not cover hearing aids, some 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.
Some federal workers can get their hearing aids covered by health insurance, as can eligible veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
If your husband is a Medicare recipient, about half of all Medicare Advantage plans offer at least partial coverage on hearing exams and devices.
To help you save money, consider shopping at Costco, which offers no-cost screenings at certain locations and competitive prices on hearing aids ($500-$1,500 each). You also can shop at websites like EmbraceHearing.com and Audicus.com, which can save you up to $2,000 per pair. A local specialist can help you make any necessary adjustments.
Another option is over-the-counter personal sound amplification products. Unlike hearing aids, the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate these. And the 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 personal sound amplification products, see assistive-listening sites like Harris Communications (HarrisComm.com, or call 866-476-9579).
Look for assistance
If your income is low, there are groups that can help you pay for hearing aids or offer discounts. To find them, visit the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website at 808ne.ws/2nxIcOH. 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.
Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit savvysenior.org.