Dear Savvy Senior,
Where can we find affordable hearing aids? My husband needs a set but we can't really afford to pay the exorbitant prices. Can you help us?
It's unfortunate, but millions of Americans with hearing loss don't get hearing aids because they simply can't afford them. Hearing aids -- typically sold through audiologists' offices -- are expensive, usually costing between $1,000 to $3,500 per ear. What's more, traditional Medicare doesn't cover them and private insurance typically hasn't either.
But there are numerous ways to save on hearing aids if you know where to look. Here are a few tips.
Check Your Insurance
While most private health insurance companies do not cover hearing aids, there are a few that do. United Healthcare, for example, offers high-tech custom hearing aids to their beneficiaries through HealthInnovations for $599 to $899 each. And a small number of other plans will pitch in $500 to $1,000 towards the cost of hearing aids, or give you a discount if you purchase hearing aids from a contracted provider.
And due to state law mandates, three states--Arkansas, New Hampshire and Rhode Island--currently require private insurance companies to provide hearing aid coverage for adults and 20 require it for children. So check with your insurance provider to see if it offers a hearing aid benefit.
If your husband is a Medicare beneficiary you should know that while original Medicare (Part A and B) and Medigap supplemental policies do not cover hearing aids, there are some Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans that do. To look for a plan in your area that covers hearing aids visit Medicare.gov/find-a-plan.
If he is a current or retired federal employee enrolled in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, some plans provide hearing aid coverage, including the Blue Cross Blue Shield plan that covers hearing aids every three years up to $2,500.
And, if you are on Medicaid, most state programs cover hearing aids, but requirements vary. To find out if he qualifies, contact your state's Medicaid program or visit Medicaid.gov.
If your husband is a veteran, the VA provides a hearing aid benefit if his hearing loss was connected to military service or linked to a medical condition treated at a VA hospital. He can also get hearing aids through the VA if his hearing loss is severe enough to interfere with his activities of daily life. To learn more, call 877-222-8387 or visit VA.gov.
If your income is low, there are various programs and foundations that provide financial assistance for hearing aids to people in need. Start by calling your state vocational rehabilitation department (see parac.org/svrp.html) to find out if there are any city, county or state programs, or local civic organizations that could help.
Also contact Sertoma (Sertoma.org, 816-333-8300), a civic service organization that offers a comprehensive list of state and national hearing aid assistance programs on their website. 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.
Cheaper Buying Options
If you are unable to get a third party to help pay for your husbands hearing aids, you can still save significantly by purchasing his hearing aids at Costco or online.
Most Costco stores sell top brands of hearing aids for 30 to 50 percent less than other warehouse chains, hearing aid dealers or audiologists' offices. This includes an in-store hearing aid test, fitting by a hearing aid specialist and follow-up care.
And websites like EmbraceHearing.com and Audicus.com, sell quality hearing aids directly from the manufacturer for as little as $400 or $500. But, he will need to get a hearing evaluation from a local audiologist first, which can cost between $50 and $200.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of "The Savvy Senior" book.