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Hear Better on a Budget

By Tim Steele, Ph.D., FAAA, President, Associated Audiologists, Inc.

Hear Better on a BudgetOnly 33 percent of Americans with hearing loss use hearing devices, leading many to assume hearing aid cost may pose a potential barrier to care. But with numerous studies confirming the connection between untreated hearing loss and increased risk for cognitive decline, memory loss, falls, depression, anxiety and social isolation, you might ask yourself if you can afford to do without them?

Here’s what you can do if you suspect you have a hearing loss, but have concerns about how to afford hearing aids:

Schedule a diagnostic hearing evaluation with an audiologist.
A hearing evaluation performed by a doctoral-level audiologist can confirm whether you have a hearing loss, as well as the best type of treatment or hearing aid. The evaluation also provides a baseline measurement and may identify any underlying medical issues that may be contributing to your hearing loss, or that might require a referral.

Cost: If you have Medicare or Medicare replacement commercial insurance, the cost of your hearing evaluation is usually a covered benefit. For patients who do not have coverage, ask about private
pay fees.

Caution: Beware of practices that offer “free” hearing screenings or evaluations. Hearing screenings are not the same as comprehensive hearing evaluations. In addition, in these cases, the test results DO NOT belong to you and cannot be taken elsewhere. In other words, if you have a “free” hearing test, you often can’t get your results and take them to another provider.

Bottom line: See a reputable audiologist and pay for a diagnostic hearing evaluation, either through insurance or private pay. The result then belongs to you and can help guide your treatment.

Discuss budget up front with your healthcare provider or audiologist.
Don’t assume you can’t afford hearing aids. And, don’t be fooled by ads and mailers promoting hearing aids for next to nothing—a low-cost hearing aid always has a caveat. There are, however, a number of affordable hearing aid options available, as well as special healthcare financing options.
Cost: Affordable entry-level hearing aids often start around $750 per ear. With so many advances in hearing aid technology, even these basic digital models can offer you a significant improvement in your hearing, especially in simple listening environments.

Caution: Ask for a written quote from the audiologist detailing the cost of the hearing aids and services included, warranties and return policies.

Bottom line: Talk about budget concerns up front and see an audiologist that provides a written quote and ongoing follow-up care, along with quality options, verification, validation, and return options.

Call our clinic to learn more about your insurance coverage.
Though Medicare and insurance typically cover the cost of the hearing evaluation, Medicare DOES NOT cover the cost of hearing aids. Coverage from Medicare replacement plans and traditional insurance plans varies. There are a few plans that offer a dollar amount toward a hearing aid purchase, but these are few and far between. Others offer a low-end, pre-designated hearing aid ranging in cost from $600-$1,000 each, which may not be the best fit or solution. And yet other plans provide purchase options through third-party outlets which claim discounted pricing, but do not include hearing aid services.

Cost: Check with your audiologist regarding your insurance plan benefits related to hearing aids.

Caution: Don’t assume just because you have insurance that hearing aids will be covered, and remember that Medicare DOES NOT pay for hearing aids. Sometimes health insurance companies or their affiliates promote “cheap” hearing aids using confusing wording like “hearing aids available with low co-pays.” In most cases, low-cost hearing aids are either using basic processors which don’t perform as well in complex environments, or they are promoting an older, outdated technology that they are trying to clear from the warehouse. In other cases, the purchase includes only the hearing aid and fitting, but no additional follow-up services. And in some cases, it’s both low-end technology and no additional service included.

Bottom line: Associated Audiologists provides assistance with checking your coverage. We also can offer assistance with securing affordable financing options and adhere to best practices when fitting a hearing aid, including real-ear verification and follow-up care. Research shows better satisfaction and use when hearing aids are fit and followed by audiologists.

Summary
Audiology remains the gold standard of care for those seeking help with hearing loss. An audiologist can evaluate and confirm your hearing loss, recommending appropriate hearing aid technology for your lifestyle, budget and needs.

Audiologists also provide wax removal and monitoring/follow-up, and Associated Audiologists has staff who are experts in researching your insurance benefits, as well as connecting you with other financial resources, if needed.

“We understand it’s become very confusing for consumers to navigate all their options for improved hearing, but we also don’t want cost to be a barrier for anyone seeking help,” said Tim Steele, Ph.D., FAAA, President, Associated Audiologists.

“There is a fine balance between cost and overall performance/satisfaction. What most people don’t realize is that a hearing aid isn’t just a piece of technology like a mobile phone that can be picked up in a retail store. It is a miniaturized, custom-fit, prescription-programmed device that needs regular maintenance, along with monitoring for wax build-up and hearing status of the user. Your success also maybe linked to the professional you see.

“As an independent, private practice of doctoral-level audiologists, we take pride in providing the most options available compared to any source, accept most insurances, and offer the highest level of care in the region with ranges of costs and technologies for any budget,” Dr. Steele said.

“Our practice can review all your options so you understand the pros and cons. We work with many of the insurance plans or third-party distributors, but recommend you contact us first to get educated. We do this without sacrificing the professional services and care that our patients and their families deserve.”

Call 913-228-3989 to schedule a comprehensive hearing evaluation with a doctoral-level audiologist
at Associated Audiologists.

Overland Park, KS
Prairie Village, KS
Leavenworth, KS
Shawnee Mission, KS
Manhattan, KS
Kansas City, MO
913-228-3989
www.HearingYourBest.com

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