Last weekend, my friend’s aunt gift-wrapped a blog topic and gave me an earful at the same time. She asked: “Why won’t Medicare pay for hearing aids?”

Legislation to pay for seniors’ hearing needs

I knew that in most cases Medicare won’t pay for hearing aids, but what I didn’t know was U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., has introduced a bill in Congress — Medicare Hearing Aid Coverage Act of 2015, which was referred earlier this year to the Subcommittee on Health.

The bill’s summary says it amends Title XVIII (Medicare) of the Social Security Act to repeal the exclusion and allow coverage of hearing aids and examinations for them. And, it directs the Government Accountability Office to study programs that provide assistance for hearing aids and related examinations for individuals with hearing loss.

Will they wear them?

I know seniors that have hearing aids but hate wearing them, and often don’t, which I struggle to understand in trying to talk with them when they aren’t wearing them. In my father’s case, I had to persuade him to get a hearing exam. He’s had his hearing aids for more than 5 years now and wears them religiously.

They’re expensive

The average Social Security monthly retirement benefit is $1,328 per month. According to the AARP Bulletin, a pair of hearing aids can cost $3,200 to $7,000, and 80% of wearers need 2 hearing aids.

It’s a tough decision for seniors living on a fixed income. There are organizations that will help people get the hearing aids they need. This AARP Bulletin feature lists possible sources to help pay for hearing aids.

But so is the cost of not having them

Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, says, “In truth, hearing loss which goes untreated can lead to depression, cognitive impairment, life-altering falls, social isolation and a lack of independence. This not only threatens the well-being of seniors but also carries serious implications for the Medicare program. It’s a threat our nation can no longer afford to ignore.”

If you think Medicare should pay for hearing aids and exams, reach out to your representative and let him or her hear you.

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