Monday, May 16, 2011

How Insurance and Cheaper Hearing Aids Influence People's Decisions

What does it take to make someone choose to wear hearing aids? Of course the answer is different for everyone and there are many varying reasons someone may or may not wear hearing aids, but one thing I always thought was that cost was an issue. After all, if hearing aids were cheaper, more people could afford them, and would wear them, right?

From Flickr user AMagill
Image of a roll of 100 -dollar bills held together with a rubber band.
Apparently not - a study covered by Medical News Today seems to show that if someone does not have insurance for hearing aids or only has partial coverage, lowering the cost of the aids, even by 40%, will not make them more likely to buy hearing aids at a younger age or without severe loss. Only full coverage of the price of hearing aids makes younger or "less deaf" people buy hearing aids sooner.

The study was done by Henry Ford Hospital. They split a group of 1,200 patients into three categories based on how much insurance coverage they had for hearing aids (full coverage, partial coverage, and no coverage). The following results are quoted from the article linked above:
The study shows that patients who had full coverage for hearing aids obtained them about seven years earlier and with better hearing than the other two groups. But there was no difference in age or hearing loss between people who paid for the full cost of hearing aids or purchased hearing aids at a substantially reduced cost.

The more patients had to pay out of pocket (partial and private pay groups) the more likely they were to upgrade to a more advanced device. Patients with full coverage were the least likely to upgrade, and only purchased what was fully covered by insurance.

According to the study, the only situation in which patients are motivated to get hearing aids earlier is when they are provided at no cost.
This is really interesting to me. It seems to say people with full coverage may get hearing aids sooner but be more likely to settle for a lower quality brand if that's what insurance will cover. At the same time, people who have to pay out of pocket will save their money until they feel the aids are necessary and spend more for a higher quality device.

Personally I think I would be the same way. I like having better quality hearing instruments so I would probably pay extra for nicer aids. Of course - it would help a lot if only insurance would cover even some of it! (No health insurance I've ever had would cover any hearing aids at all.) And I really think insurance absolutely should cover hearing aids. What do you think?


  1. I needed new hearing aids two years ago (I'm now 26) and paid full price for higher quality. But then again, I'm deaf so being able to talk and listen at work is very important to me. People with better hearing might think they can get by with lower quality.

    I think insurance should cover first hearing aids for people who lose their hearing (such as from disease or trauma). But insurance is supposed to guard against unknown and catastrophic medical costs, not predictable ones. If you wear hearing aids then you should be saving for your next pair.

  2. Yep, it has to with taking a risk. With insurance or low cost HA, you don't really care what kind you get. But if you have to spend a lot of money, you want make sure you have the best before you invest your money.

    TV for instant, you'll take any tv (as long it is color ) if it was giving to you or sell to you at a yardsale price. But if you were to buy a brand new tv, its hard to go with cheap tv out of fear of bad quality and you dont to be spending again to replace it anytime soon in the future.

  3. I am in agreement that insurance companies should not have to pay for predicted expenses, but that the first hearing aid after a hearing loss trauma could be nice.

    On the other hand, here in Brazil, there is a law called roughly "The right to see, hear, and have mobility." The Brazilian health system pays for 1 hearing aid, pair of eye glasses, or prosthetic device for whoever needs one. It also pays for one cochlear implant for qualifying people, as well as a retina replacement surgery.

    I think this is great, because it is not something that creates dependency (like welfare might, for example), but it does make a huge difference in the quality of life for many. I wish many of our states would consider this.

    I am consulting about a cochlear implant now. I live in Brazil and am a legal resident here. I've worn a hearing aid for nearly 30 years and have been completely deaf 3 times.

    I like your blog. Thanks for writing.


  4. I'm agree with you that insurance absolutely should cover hearing aids. Hearing aids are a part of life for several people, particularly when they get older. Hopefully some insurance companies will think about this ideas because it would help a lot!
    gn resound hearing aids

  5. price and insurance are definitely among the 2 factors that would highly affect people's decision whether to buy or not..

    Let's admit it, some hearing aids are expensive..and most people couldn't afford it.

    In fact many people who are candidate for hearing loss often compare prices of hearing aids, and check with their insurance company if its covered or not.


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