Many older adults with hearing impairment who are living on a fixed income struggle to afford the high cost of hearing aids. Unfortunately, few health insurance policies pay for them. And to the surprise of many, Medicare does not provide coverage for the devices or for the exams required to fit them.
Thankfully, some organizations and institutions provide free hearing aids for older adults and for others who might need them. And if you are unable to find a cost-free device in your area, there are also ways to get discount hearing aids as well.
How to Find Free Hearing Aids
If you're willing to do a little legwork, there are many organizations that can help find free or discount hearing aids for older adults, children, and low-income adults. Use these resources to get the services you need.
Ask Your Audiologist
The best place to start looking for assistance is your audiologist. Ask if they know of any local nonprofit organizations that help older adults with 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.
Hearing Loss Association of America
The Hearing Loss Association of America provides information about a number of financial aid assistance programs available to eligible individuals, including children, college students, working people, and veterans. 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 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.
The Miracle-Ear Foundation program helps give the gift of sound to people with hearing loss. In order to qualify for the program, however, you must meet all eligibility requirements. According to the organization's website, you must have an income that is significantly limited, you must be unable to afford the costs of a hearing aid, and you must have exhausted all other resources for getting a discounted or free hearing aid. More specific information is provided on the website. 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.
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.
Tips for Finding Free or Discount Hearing Aids
Michelle Katz, LPN, MSN, author of Healthcare Made Easy and Healthcare for Less offers additional tips for those who need to find free or discounted hearing aids:
- Make sure the physician or audiologist writes a 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.
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.