Hearing Aids Often Out of Reach for Poorer Medicare Patients

by Joyce Frieden

Low-income patients also more likely to report trouble with devices .

Many elderly people — particularly those with low incomes — had trouble accessing not only hearing aids, but also hearing aid-related services such as fittings and maintenance visits, researchers found.

Dually eligible patients — those eligible to receive both Medicare and Medicaid — were 41% less like to use hearing care services, and were twice as likely to report having a lot of trouble hearing with their aids, compared to high-income Medicare beneficiaries, Amber Willink, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and colleagues, reported in a studyin Health Affairs. In addition, older beneficiaries with less than a high school diploma were 30% less likely to use hearing aid services.

Medicare currently doesn’t cover either hearing aids or hearing aid services, co-author Nicholas Reed, AuD, also of Johns Hopkins University, said in an interview with MedPage Today. These services include those directly related to the hearing aid (such as customizing and verifying the output of the device and providing maintenance and repair services) and those related to the patient (such as offering communication techniques for overcoming difficult listening situations, counseling for coping with hearing loss, and managing expectations about the hearing aid), the authors explained.

ngd-MDRC started the AT Loan Fund originally based on these issues with funding hearing aids.

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