Many hearing-impaired seniors living on a fixed income struggle to afford the high cost of hearing aids. Likewise, few health insurance policies pay for hearing aids and to the surprise of many, Medicare does not provide coverage for the devices or the exams required to fit them. Fortunately, some organizations and institutions provide free hearing aids and hearing aid discounts for seniors.
Resources for Hearing Devices for Elderly People
If you're willing to do a little legwork, there are many organizations that can help you or your loved one find free hearing aid programs.
Ask Your Audiologist
The best place to start looking for assistance is your audiologist. Ask if he or she knows of any local nonprofit organizations that help seniors suffering from hearing loss obtain hearing aids for low-income adults at no charge. Local nonprofits sometimes offer assistance in the form of grants based on individual needs - even when they don't offer a specific hearing aid program.
AUDIENT is a nonprofit hearing care alliance that is nationwide. It provides quality hearing aids and related hearing care for low-income people through a national network of hearing care providers. Those looking for assistance can call their toll free number 1-866-956-5400, extension 2 and ask for AUDIENT.
Hearing Loss Association of America
The Hearing Loss Association of America provides information about a number of financial aid assistance programs available to needy individuals, including the elderly. Although the association does not supply individuals with hearing aids, it acts as a repository of up-to-date information about a number of financial aid options including those for veterans and through Medicaid.
Lions Clubs International
Many local Lions Clubs participate in the Lions Affordable Hearing Aid Project (AHAP). Get a Lion's Club hearing aid application through your local Lions Club, which determines eligibility (based on income) and arranges testing by a hearing care professional. You can find your local Lions Club by using the Lions Clubs International locator. Alternatively, you can contact Lions AHAP at (630) 571-5466 or by e-mail.
Starkey Hearing Foundation
The Starkey Hearing Foundation provides hearing aids for people with limited income under their HEAR Now program. You can call 1-800-328-8602 to speak with a consultant or you can send an email. Once you've been in contact with a representative, you can download and fill out an application.
The Miracle-Ear Foundation program helps give the gift of sound to needy people with hearing loss. In order to qualify for the program, you must meet their eligibility requirements. After your application has been carefully reviewed on the basis of income, assets and hearing loss, you may be eligible for their services. You can fill out the application and submit it to your local Miracle-Ear store.
Contact hearing aid manufacturers and ask if there is a trial program, in which you can take part. They often seek individuals to help test their new hearing aid models while they are in development. Healthy Hearing has a list of major manufacturers of hearing aids that can be used to make that initial contact.
Hearing Aid Resources
You can also check into additional resources at the Hearing Aid Project. If you are not eligible for any of those programs, you may be able to qualify for hearing aid assistance through the National Hearing Aid Project.
Some Expert Tips for Finding Free or Affordable Hearing Aids
- Make sure the physician or audiologist puts down the correct diagnosis. An incorrect or incomplete diagnosis can hold up or invalidate an application for financial aid.
- While private insurers rarely provide coverage for hearing aids, three states, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Arkansas require insurers to provide coverage for adults. Be sure to check your private insurance for coverage - especially if you live in one of the three "mandate" states.
- Some states include some coverage for hearing aids and related services, under their health insurance exchanges run under the Affordable Care Act.
- In addition, double-check on the Department of Health and Human Services since the ACA will be going through more changes and free hearing aids may be included.
- Organizations such as The National Institute on Deafness and the Better Hearing Institute are also helpful.
Hearing Aid Options
As noted, most insurance companies do not provide coverage for hearing aids, however, the resources listed here are a great place to start when researching affordable hearing aids and audiology care. It's also reassuring to know that there are many foundations, clubs, and associations that are willing to help those who are hearing impaired but can't afford hearing aids.