Many hearing-impaired seniors living on a fixed income cannot afford the high cost of hearing aids, which, according to Lions Club International, cost an average of $3,600 each. What's more, very 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, organizations and institutions have been set up to provide relief to those who need it most.
If you're willing to do a little leg work, there are many organizations that can help you or your loved one afford hearing aids.
The best place to start looking for assistance is your audiologist. Ask if they know of any local nonprofit organizations that help seniors suffering from hearing loss obtain hearing aids 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 provides hearing care throughout the nation for low-income people through a network of hearing-care providers. Their services help provide access to quality hearing aids. Those looking for assistance can call their toll free number 1-866-956-5400. You can download the AUDIENT program application here.
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 Club International
Many local Lions Clubs participate in the Lions Affordable Hearing Aid Project (AHAP).
Potential recipients apply through their 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 Club International directory. Alternatively, you can contact Lions AHAP at (630) 203-3837 or by e-mail. You can access the AHAP application form online.
Starkey Hearing Foundation
The Starkey Hearing Foundation provides hearing aids for people with limited income under their HEAR Now program. Start by calling 1-800-328-8602 to speak with a consultant. Once you've spoken with a representative, you can download and fill out an application.
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.
Some Expert Tips
- 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 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.
Even though most insurance companies do not provide coverage for hearing aids, there are still a lot of options to make sure that seniors have affordable access to audiology care.