The price of hearing

I was born with poor eyesight and have needed to wear glasses since I was 4. Probably because of this, my hearing always has been keen. I can hear the drone of a distant airplane sooner than others, and I prefer to turn down the volume on television, radio and other audio devices. Loud sounds bother me. As I have aged, however, my hearing acuity seems to have declined to a level more like the average American adult, if such a creature exists.

My dear bride, whose hearing has been normal for most of her life, now is losing some of her hearing acuity, especially in her right ear. A recent examination confirmed this and has referred her to an otolaryngologist, who will test her hearing further and recommend treatment. We suspect that this will mean hearing aids.

Hearing aids this would be fine with us, but paying for them will be the challenge. Hearing aids cost in the thousands, and medical insurers for the most part don’t cover them. They take the position that hearing aids are elective. I disagree. For those with hearing loss, hearing aids can be a lifeline, according to Healthy Hearing. “Without them, quality of life drops dramatically; people with hearing loss become isolated and have trouble engaging in life. Hearing loss affects everything from family relationships and employment to mental and physical health. Without hearing aids, personal safety can even be compromised for people with hearing loss.”

Some Medicare Advantage plans include coverage for hearing aids, traditional Medicare does not. Most private insurers follow Medicare’s lead, so if Medicare doesn’t cover it, they don’t either. Insurers are in business to make money, and hearing aids, as we have seen, are pricey. About 20 states require insurance companies to provide hearing aid coverage for children but not for adults.

Insurers consider hearing loss a likely risk, meaning that individuals with hearing loss eventually will make a claim, and there will be a lot of claims. About 37 million people now suffer from hearing loss, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Given the cost of hearing aids and the need for replacements every five years or so, insurance companies aren’t likely make a profit.

But we are living longer. America’s 65-and-over population is projected to nearly double over the next three decades, ballooning from 48 million to 88 million by 2050. As we age, more of us are affected by hearing loss. It’s time for insurance companies to step up and improve the lives of millions of its aging adults by helping.

Will they?

One thought on “The price of hearing

  1. of course they won’t, if it impacts profits. since the Affordable Care AND PROTECTION Act, insurers have to be less awful than they used to be, but they’ll still concern themselves with enhancing bottomlines no matter what.


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