Policy & Politics: Why Hearing Aids Are Not Covered by Medicare

cover illustrationHearing Journal: Policy & Politics: Why Hearing Aids Are Not Covered by Medicare — cover story by Gordon Glantz

It is unclear what former Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter meant when he said: “All our work, our whole life is a matter of semantics, because words are the tools with which we work, the material out of which laws are made, out of which the Constitution was written. Everything depends on our understanding of them.”

It comes down to how words are heard, then interpreted.

For the hearing impaired, both hearing and interpretation seemingly form an unholy alliance when it comes to Medicare coverage of, or affordable alternatives to, hearing aids.

Based on what could be tricky wordplay, hearing aids do not fall under the definition of a durable medical device, which Medicare.gov describes as the following:

  • Durable (long-lasting)
  • Used for a medical reason
  • Not usually useful to someone who isn’t sick or injured
  • Used in your home
  • Has an expected lifetime of at least three years

This equipment must be “medically necessary” and something “that your doctor prescribes for use in your home.”

Examples include blood sugar monitors and test strips for diabetics, canes and crutches for the immobile, and oxygen equipment for those with compromised breathing capacity. And, since 1986, so are cochlear implants, which involves a surgical procedure for the “severe-to-profound” nerve deafness.

But when it comes to hearing aids, the swelling number of people with age-related hearing loss is left in the dark. [Full story]