Like the treatment of any medical condition, the treatment of hearing loss or other hearing impairment can be expensive. The cost of visits to an audiologist or other hearing professional, as well as the purchase of assistive hearing devices such as hearing aids, may be partially covered by health insurance or not at all. There’s no question that hearing loss can, and often does, present a financial burden.
The cost of hearing loss to our society
While individuals with hearing loss often feel its result in their wallet, there is a societal economic burden related to the condition as well. The type and extent of the cost is often related to an individual’s age.
For young people with hearing loss, the cost to society often comes in terms of providing assistive services for children and young adults who are attending school. While these services can and do make the educational experience easier and more meaningful for children with hearing impairment, the cost of providing services is often covered by taxpayer money or funds from local charitable organizations.
For middle-aged and working adults, hearing loss can lead to reduced work productivity, or in severe cases, prevent individuals from working at all. Less work means less pay but there is still the cost of living to cover – the gap between income and expenditures is often covered through social programs such as welfare.
For seniors and retired individuals, governmental healthcare programs, such as Medicare, cover many of the expenses related to hearing treatment. This includes visits to a hearing professional, hearing testing, and sometimes a portion of treatment options such as hearing aids.
The cost of hearing loss to an individual
Research on the topic continues, but one study presented by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) showed a positive correlation between hearing loss and lower levels of academic achievement and lower income. Both of these factors have a negative impact on an individual’s financial health and further compound the feeling of loss that someone with hearing impairment already experiences.
The greatest financial burden for individuals with hearing loss often comes when it’s time to purchase hearing aids, or another assistive listening device. Depending on the type of health insurance they have, only a portion of the total cost may be covered, or nothing at all. This could leave individuals having to pay thousands of dollars out of their own pocket to get the treatment they need. Unfortunately, this sometimes causes people to resist or put off getting treatment, even when untreated hearing loss is negatively impacting other areas of their lives.
How to pay for hearing loss treatment
The first step is to ask your health insurance company what they will cover in terms of hearing loss diagnosis and treatment. Some companies cover only exams, while others will also foot the bill for at least a portion of the cost of assistive hearing devices.
Veterans who have hearing loss may be eligible for assistance through the Veterans Administration. To determine whether or not you qualify, contact your local office of Veterans Affairs and ask for help going through the process.
For children and adults, financial assistance for hearing aids and other devices can sometimes be obtained through school programs, local charitable organizations, or national groups like the National Hearing Aid Project. Many groups, however, limit their assistance to low-income individuals with hearing loss.
The Better Hearing Institute and other organizations continue to lobby for financial assistance programs to offset the cost of hearing loss treatment, but the choice is ultimately yours. Yes, the dollars and cents of paying for hearing loss treatment can add up, but the hidden costs of an untreated hearing impairment can be even greater.