Affordable and Accessible Hearing Health for Seniors
One of the most common consequences of aging is hearing loss, which represents the third most prevalent chronic medical condition among seniors. Empirical evidence links hearing loss to a variety of other medical conditions, including depression; lack of balance, which causes falls; and cognitive problems. Yet most insurance programs do not cover the cost of hearing aids. Even Medicare, the federal insurance program for those age 65 and older, statutorily excludes coverage for hearing aids, which cost between $2,000 and $7,000 a pair.
This article evaluates opportunities for enhancing hearing health and for making hearing assistance more accessible and affordable for a growing population of seniors. It recommends options for improved access to over-the-counter (OTC) devices, increased use of existing and developing technologies, and proposed regulatory changes. It also explores provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that may assist low- and moderate-income seniors with limited insurance coverage and those with severe hearing loss. Although the consequences of these recommendations remain unknown, some tentative conclusions about them are offered.