Hearing Aids for Seniors

Hearing Aids for Seniors – An Introduction to Hearing Aid Information

In your older age, the capability for your ears – worn down by years of aging, gradual injury, and reduction in durability from excessive noise – decreases, meaning it can be pretty difficult for them to adjust properly when needing to alter between hearing certain quieter sounds (much like a whisper or a voice from far away.) When seeking out assistance from a hearing aid, the first question arises – what exactly is a hearing aid? Without complicating the definition, a hearing aid is a small, non-invasive electrical device that warps soundwaves that your ear is collecting, properly attempting to amplify those that the device feels it should; basically, a hearing aid works to make sure that your normal hearing remains unaffected, while giving a boost to all the sounds you would normally not hear!

By installing the foundation of three simple parts – a microphone, a speaker, and an amplifier – the device can properly be aware of sounds in your environment (through the microphone,) qualify their need to be amplified (through the amplifier,) and then be received into your actual ear for hearing (through the speaker.) All in all, much like any product seeking to emulate a real sensory feeling, the process of a hearing aid will happen constantly and almost instantaneously, always using the power of it’s microphone to assess the sounds around you – it’s only fair that you’d want to feel like you can rely on your aid to make hearing sound as natural and familiar as possible!

However, due to vast pool of selection for hearing aids and the very tailored nature to which our hearing needs assistance, making a choice can seem impossible and overwhelming – how can you know what will work for you? Thankfully, by accessing information that properly elaborates on what is ready for purchase, as well as reasons justifying your interest, you can feel comfortable knowing that you’ve got all the proper information necessary for making an educated purchase. Below, we’ll discuss the most important factors a senior should know before, during, and after they’ve committed to buying a hearing aid – after all, the more you know, the more confident you can be when speaking to a professional about your interest.

  1. Making Your Initial Decision – What Are the Types of Hearing Aids Available?

Deciding on the right fitted hearing aid for yourself can be an adventure of it’s own right, with so many options crafted uniquely to fit the mold of any lifestyle – factors like cost, the feeling of the aid, the quality of your hearing, how the aid will sit in, on, or over your ear, and even the appearance of hearing aid all matter towards your best possible selection! Many providers recognize that hearing is one of the most crucial senses necessary to understanding the world around us,  and as such, requires a hearing aid that will fit the bill on all the necessities you may want for comfort – even if it requires a hearing aid with special features built right into it for your specific problem, like volume control or the ability to change its individual settings remotely.

Still though, despite the vast flexibility offered for hearing aids, they still adhere to certain categories based most distinctly on their placement, their power, and how they’ll operate to properly bring audio into the ear. As we list the various options available for choosing amongst hearing aids, take note – not all hearing aids can feasibly work for every individual, and where some hearing aid styles may win you over, other elements may fail you entirely. Hearing aids are a communicative process between you and your respective audiologist; by becoming familiar about your array of choice, the discussion can more properly address (and correctly weigh) your wants from your needs.  The types, and their subsets, are as followed:

  1. In the Ear Variations (ITE) – Hearing aids that are typically associated with being worn inside the ear, fitting themselves uniquely to your ear for optimal comfort (usually through a careful adjustment and impression process with a professional.) 
  1. Completely-in-the-Canal (CIC) – Molded to literally match the size and bend of your ear canal, a completely-in-the-canal hearing aid serves as the least visible notation of a hearing aid’s appearance, as it’s placement deep in the ear makes its presence to others virtually unknown. The device itself is usually very small and will likely have less power or ability than other comparable hearing aid options, with very little potential for extra features  –  primarily, a CIC serves those may be most willing to trade between their hearing aids utility for appearance (or lack thereof,) and as such, only properly helps those who may not have significant hearing issues.
  1. Invisible-in-the-Canal (IIC) – Built to fit the farthest possible into one’s ear for the closest translation of sound to the eardrum, an IIC is essentially the option most necessary for those seeking no trace or recognition of their hearing aid. With its placement in the ear canal nearly impossible to discern at all, your hearing aid can feel like a completely natural and fair addition to your lifestyle; however, as the device must be made supremely small for such a feat, it has a relatively weak battery lifetime and power volume (much like the CIC.) Both variations, being either CIC or IIC, will need very routine cleaning to avoid earwax build-up deteriorating and overwhelming the device’s capability over time.
  1. In-the-Ear (ITE) – Moving father out from the inside of the canal, a ITE continues to rest on the actual interior curve of the ear; by doing so, the device (which will either be considered full shell, if it fills most of your outer ear, or half shell, if only half) helps provide quality superior to that of that of the CIC or IIC models, but with also much more flexible removal, simpler upkeep, and additional controlled features (like volume and so on.) 

With its much more study and significant battery power, an ITE can be a considerably better option for those who suffer from more serious hearing issues; additionally, it’s likely available list of controllable fixtures helps those who may have very specific settings necessary to hear properly in several situations. Unfortunately, however, the device in this circumstance is recognizably visible in a person’s ear bowl and may seem to stand out to some.

  1. In-the-Canal (ITC) – By uniting the two worlds between CIC and ITE, the ITC model meets halfway with its discreet visibility in the ear, all while still allowing for more opportunities to better emulate the strong adjustable benefits provided by a full-on ITE hearing aid. ITC devices are built with a custom consideration that only a portion of the device will be placed into the ear canal, leaving a smaller quarter of the device out for easy removal access – essentially, this means that both the instrument’s adjustment, additional features, and cleaning are all much more accessible than a CIC counterpart, all while achieving similar quality.
  1. Behind-the-Ear Variation (BTE) – For those seeing a greater less invasive experience for their hearing aid experience, the BTE model may be most necessary; it’s device is actually crafted on a multi-portion mechanism that allows the aid itself to sit behind or atop the outside of the ear entirely, gathering all sound information from that point outwardly and, then rerouting it properly to the ear through a tubing to a installed ear mold. 

With its recognizable size and power, BTE hearing aids are very much considered the power-house of all hearing aid options, but it may somewhat bulky and be more easily noticed compared to other options; however, the myriad of amplification options makes this option generally worth its weight for those who may endure higher levels of hearing loss. Lastly, BTE hearing aids are typically divided into 3 available sub-sections for ultimate preference: Mini (the least visible,) Standard, or Power (for the most hearing amplification.)

  1. Open Fit Behind-the-Ear (Open Fit BTE) – An alternative selection of the BTE model, the Open Fit BTE is essentially very similar by most levels of comparison, but it seeks to leave much more your ear canal open to sounds most natural to the ear; by substantially shrinking the tube that directs information from the BTE instrument to the ear, the ear canal can remain open enough so that you can avoid any of the unnatural feeling arisen from using your hearing aid as the entire basis of your hearing. Though typically a bit weaker and smaller, this option’s primary highlight and focus is the goal to better emulate a more natural bridge between your own hearing and what frequencies most need the help; it cannot be compared in power to a more standardized BTE.
  1. Receiver-in-Canal/Receiver-in-the-Ear (RIC/RITE) – A similar counterpart to the BTE model of hearing aid is the RIC, or RITE – these two options both operate as a BTE would, by having a portion of it’s entire being divided from an interior and exterior perspective (with part of the device resting on the ear, and other in the ear or ear canal.) However, instead of a sized out tubing to translate information, RIC/RITE devices use electrical wires to better dull distortion and make hearing sound clearer; also, while the device’s receiver may have to be placed into the ear or canal, the wires act as a highly simplified method of providing some openness to the rest of ear, providing a comfortable and natural open fit.

Despite the harsh reality, majority of options listed above will have issues with built up earwax and will need to be cleaned regularly, especially if placed into the actual ear (but not only.) The proportional size and placement of a hearing aid, as you may now understand, greatly suggests the amount of power it can put forward for your hearing; additionally, features like the following can be made available if given the right model listed above, but will require enough space and reasonable accommodation for its installation and operation:

  • Rechargeable batteries
  • Specific Noise-Level Reductions (Including Noise Cancellation)
  • Remote Control of your Hearing Aid (Including Volume)
  • Environmental Noise Dictation
  • Directional Microphones
  • Wireless or Bluetooth Connectivity (Including to Cellphones, Televisions, and other Compatible Electronic Devices)

Remember, because many of these hearing aids will be crafted through a model of your own ear, your audiologist may be able to make some accommodations you did not think possible in your circumstance; you should feel encouraged to stress what elements of a hearing aid model may be most important to you when deciding and be fair when picking your preferences – your ability to hear properly, and comfortably, should be the number one priority!

  1. Following the Necessary Process – The Steps You Will Take When Purchasing a Hearing Aid

Making the judgement necessary to consider a hearing aid can be difficult alone – many steps may be involved in the process of both giving confidence in your decision to purchase, but also to feel like your decision was a worthwhile one. The steps that you’ll go through on your path to ultimately seeking out a hearing aid include a variety of activity – personal assessments, professional tests, procedures, and as well as a lot of money planning go into the final craft, but what’s there really to consider? Beyond just what you want and how you’ll achieve purchasing it, let’s go ahead and walk through the steps you’ll find yourself in among this hearing aid timeline, giving a bit of commentary of the thoughts to consider with each:

  1. First, you’ll likely want to visit your regular doctor to get a general check-up about your health, especially including your ears. Your doctor will be able to give an overall assessment about your current hearing status from a non-specialized standpoint – from here, you’ll have a completed assessment prior to seeking out an audiologist for more specialized treatment. 

Take note that this process is to mostly rule out any health factors that could otherwise be negatively affecting your hearing but may be treatable (such a massive build-up of earwax or a serious infection) – some factors against your health are not reasonably assisted by hearing aids, and therefore, may not apply when trying to justify a hearing device for yourself. Also, in many cases, your primary doctor may be the one who will give you a referral to see an audiologist of their recommendation if your case is qualified.

  1. Once you’ve properly assessed other possible issues, head to a qualified audiologist, either by your doctor’s recommendation or of your own choice – here, you’ll be able to undergo more intensive evaluation about estimating your level of hearing loss, as well as start building and communicating about a solution best apt to help supplement the damage. Typically, this survey by an audiologist will include:
  1. A visual examination
  2. Multiple hearing examinations and stress tests
  3. A possible request to get an interior imprint of your ear for study

Through these methods, the specialist may be able to actually begin discussing the viable hearing aid models, as well as their associated costs, that will most correctly address the specific losses of hearing you have been burdened with – remember, the severity of your hearing loss, the tailored frame of your ear’s build, and the cost you’re willing to spend, will be the highest determining factors towards what will most reasonably be offered to you.

  1. Now that you’ve been given a selection of your options and opportunities, attempt to reflect on both the current situation and the future outlined by your audiologist; in other words, begin seriously considering your costs for your hearing aid, through and through. Many of the preferences you may have about your ideal hearing aids will come with an included price tag; begin properly accounting for certain accommodations that may request more money of you than first realized, even with things as simple as budgeting to continually replace a hearing aid’s battery or accounting for follow-up visits to adjust your device.

If possible, you can attempt requesting if a trial period is available for the hearing aid of your choice and build, so that you may properly attempt to use it in all circumstances you’d like to test it against in your everyday life – typically, a trial period may actually cost quite a worthy sum, but in many circumstance you can retain a portion of the money spent trying if you ultimately return the aid tested. 

  1. Next, review your current health insurance policy – while Original Medicare does not provide any support or coverage regarding hearing aids, Medicare Advantage plan holders are fortunate that so many healthcare providers have bestowed healthy amounts of dental, vision, and hearing benefits in plans as a bonus incentive to enroll into their plan’s coverage.

In many cases, you’ll only be asked to pay certain static copays towards your hearing aids, with the plan providing an allowance amount it will give towards whatever may remain of the cost. Take warning though – many Part C (Medicare Advantage) plans may offer their perks in segmented volumes (such as only providing money per quarter or per hearing aid,) or, in some circumstances, a plan may even only be able to offer coverage for just one hearing aid.

  1. Whether or not you’ve been able to secure some financial assistance for your hearing aid, through insurance or otherwise, please fully comprehend your device’s warranty, as well as, its return policy. At its core, a hearing aid is a finely crafted, very precise and delicately tuned electronic device that you may use every single day – your device’s warranty information, including its length and what is covered, may include several necessary responsibilities on your behalf to be succeeded if ever necessary. Loss or damage done to your hearing aid, without proper comprehension of your warranty, could be a major set-back for your quality of life; remember, many hearing aid vendors will more than likely offer extended coverage at your payment and request.

If making use of a trial period on your hearing aid, ask and account for any fees the trial will ask of you; in some cases, if device returned and fees are paid appropriately, you may be given a new trial period availability for your next choice of hearing aid.

  1. Finally, continue to keep an on-going relationship with your audiologist and prepare to adjust your expectations for how things will sound from now on – your hearing will never be exactly as it was before your hearing aids, so you will have to make some flexible adjustments about your level of comfort in the sounds common to your environment. After missing certain sounds for sometimes years, the sudden return of noises unfamiliar to you may seem jarring and bothersome; gradually, at a pace most comfortable for yourself, remain in contact with these sounds to make them familiar to your brain. 

Routine appointments with your specialist will make certain that your device is maintaining an optimal performance and continues to be, most importantly, working as intended; professional adjustments to your instrument should be considered a normal part of the timeline towards keeping your hearing up to date. Put clearly, our hearing is always changing, and because hearing aids do not reverse nor stop the hearing loss you’ll have in the present or future, your hearing aids will not do their job correctly if left unattended too long.

As you come to the end of the steps towards securing your hearing aid, and now operate in the time well after, be aware that having and using a hearing aid will always be a relatively active process for yourself; the familiarities of sounds, how responsible you are about it’s cleanliness and care, and retention of survey by professionals will continue to be necessary so long as you’d like to keep your investment worth it’s while.

  1. The Provision of Hearing Aids – Who Are My Most Popular Vendors and How Do They Differ?

When making your purchase for a hearing aid, the provisioners responsible for getting you your ideal design should fall into the hands of worthwhile and capable vendor – in instrument manufacturing, 6 companies stand above the crowd when providing a big portion of the hearing aid devices around the entire globe, typically referred to as “the Big Six.” The Big Six help create a competitive rising standard for device quality to gradually improve, as there is always a fair debate between which amongst them has their makes and models most properly exceeding current market standards; by keeping the most successful and influential brands of the market on your mind, you can masterfully continue to use their standard as a bar of excellence when comparing against lesser known options. 

So, who are the Big 6 Six – with each hailing from a different region of the world, the diversity of each manufacturer involved allows for a healthy amount of division between each brand’s design choices and priorities to their customers; remember, manufacturers will create and attempt to properly designate brands that will become the more familiar names you’ll associate with your hearing aid device choices. Therefore, the Big Six are:

  • Sivantos, most known for producing the Signia brand of hearing aids
  • Starkey, most known for producing the Starkey brand of hearing aids
  • William Demant Holdings, most known for producing the Oticon brand of hearing aids
  • Widex, most known for producing the Widex brand of hearing aids
  • Sonova, most known for producing the Phonak and Unitron brands of hearing aids
  • GN ReSound, most known for producing the Resound brand of hearing aids

As you can see, it’s common for a manufacturer to keep their focus directed, making their brand tie all the way back to their company name to avoid as much confusion as possible about taking responsibility for their product’s quality; however, as the Big Six are the manufacturer of hearing aids around the world, it’s possible that your location may greatly limit your choice amongst vendors. 

Much like the considerations that fit with buying a hearing aid in general, your preferred seller can have certain priorities and designs another does not, basing their selling decisions uniquely upon the flexibility of having options for several hearing loss levels, the features they can capably offer, and the lifestyles they can best follow for their buyers. Additionally, the Big Six, and their brands, branch off again and again into various named models and sub-brands that’ll best tailor closer towards a more specific set-up for yourself, with metrics consistently held accountable between like:

  • Sound quality
  • Cost versus the value of the device, including its potential lifespan
  • Ease of Use
  • Appearance, design, and aesthetic
  • Battery life (or quality of rechargeability) 
  • Durability against damage or wear and tear
  • Offered customer service options and extra help
  • Size, material, features, and so on

The real “difference” between your vendors comes down to using the same judgement you’d likely use anywhere – they are all businesses, all with a wide array of selectable options for their devices, each serving a purpose its own compared to the ability of another; by correctly communicating your preferences to your audiologist, while weighing both your and their bias for a provider, you can begin considering where to buy and what brand can be most reasonably, and realistically, available to you.

  1. Expecting Your Fee – How Much Does a Hearing Aid Really Cost Me?

Despite the sometimes very close similarities a hearing aid has with other constantly improving electronics in our society – like PCs, phones, and tablets – the purchase, installation, and continued service of your instrument is a situation of much greater financial responsibility for a senior, both initially and on-going (usually for the rest of your life.) As a legitimate investment, the average price for a single device will run you between $1000 to $4000 dollars and beyond; unfortunately, even with such a seemingly high window of entry, there’s even more charges you must accommodate for. A quality purchase of a hearing aid – taking all the steps needed to most likely avoid any room for error – will include possibly being prepared to pay for:

  • A consultation with your primary doctor, as well as an audiologist
  • Several simply and advanced hearing tests
  • Your first fitting (building the mold)
  • Routine audiologist clinic visits (for professional cleaning and adjustment)
  • Replacement batteries 
  • Additional warranties, such as loss prevention

Without many of these regular charges, some of which may or may be covered under your insurance, your hearing aids would simply not be able to perform as close to their intended level of quality, especially over time – in fact, in many occasions, some hearing aids are given a price tag that automatically takes some of these factors into account, raising the actual price gate for your device, but automatically giving you’re the tools you need for your aid to succeed.

With just your original Medicare, you may be able to at least get that initial doctor’s visit out of the way to diagnose any other possible hearing issues, but it won’t take you too far – by having no applicable insurance, those without coverage (or who may just have their Original Medicare) will likely be expected to meet expensive out-of-pocket costs for routine specialist visits and materials, as well as pay for their device entirely at it’s retail cost. 

Typically, a health plan will offer a static amount that their plan will pay towards either 1, or 2 hearing aids, called an “allowance.” To give an example, if your plan states to give you $3000 dollars every year for 2 hearing aids, they may mean $1500 per aid specifically; however, this isn’t always universally the case, as a lump sum may be offered to spend on a device, or devices, as you see fit – it’s not uncommon for the hearing loss of one ear to be potentially much worse than another, and so, your allowance may need to lean heavier one direction than the plan can account for.

In other circumstances – where you may not be given an allowance towards your purchase – a plan may instead offer a choice between basic or advanced level hearing aids at listed copays instead; however, as healthcare plans usually include a network of providers and doctors who will need to service you, you’ll likely be expected to follow this mindset when working with the vendors they have approved of (if you seek to take advantage of a listed copay or given allowance.)

Ultimately, the amount you pay depends a lot on who and where you decide to buy from, how complex or complicated your hearing situation may be, and through how you’re paying – the costs and considerations of achieving a hearing aid will always be the same, but with appropriate coverage, you may be able to avoid paying (or pay much less) for every step of the way. Between coinsurances, copays, allowances, offered payment plans through your audiologist or a healthcare credit union, and so on, the most important take-away from recognizing the costs of the hearing aid journey is that price should not have to be an issue – there are many options to manage the costs of this endeavor, with most applying aptly to interested and motivated seniors willing to seek out the assistance.

  1. Hearing Aids Through Medicare Advantage Plans – Comparing the Options

When browsing through your catalog of coverage choices offered, especially via Medicare Part C advantage plan, you’ll notice a key factor – many advantage plans have very variable assistance for both hearing and, more often, hearing aids. With many high or low plan premiums, as well as the rest of the plan’s benefits in play, your hearing coverage can be significantly affected by just how much the plan prioritizes other perks above it; some plans may not offer hearing aid coverage whatsoever. 

By comparing some of the most common healthcare providers plans against each other, a recognizable standard and assumption can be made about their hearing coverage flexibility; unfortunately, advantage plans can be difficult to compare on a grand scale, due to their greatly specific nature per zip code within each respective state. If we take an example however – like a zip-code of Houston, TX – we can get a familiar insight into multiple plan names, their coverage, and if they may be similar elsewhere outside of Texas. Below, we’ll compare a few of the healthcare providers within this Houston zip-code, listing a brief recognition of their coverage, what amount of money they offer to help, and what is the cost of their services.

Aetna

  • Aetna Medicare Premier Plan (HMO)
    • $0 Monthly Plan Premium
    • $50 copay for Medicare-Covered Hearing Exam
    • $0 for Routine Hearing Exam (1 per year)
    • Hearing aids not covered.
  • Aetna Medicare Prime Plan (HMO)
    • $0 Monthly Plan Premium
    • $20 for Medicare-Covered Hearing Exam
    • $0 for Routine Hearing Exam (1 per year)
    • Covered – plan offers monetary reimbursement of $500, for both ears combined, per year.
  • Aetna Medicare Choice Plan (PPO)
    • $15 Monthly Plan Premium
    • Medicare-Covered Hearing Exam – $35 in-network / 50% out-of-network
    • Routine Hearing Exam (1 per year) – $0 in-network / 50% out-of-network
    • Hearing aids are not covered.
  • Aetna Medicare Value Plan (PPO)
    • $150 Monthly Plan Premium
    • Medicare-Covered Hearing Exam – $40 in-network / 50% out-of-network
    • Routine Hearing Exam (1 per year) – $0 in-network / 50% out-of-network
    • Hearing aids covered – plan offers monetary reimbursement of $500, for both ears combined, per year. 
  • Aetna Medicare Plus Plan (PPO)
    • $0 Monthly Plan Premium
    • Medicare-Covered Hearing Exam – $50 in-network / 50% out-of-network
    • Routine Hearing Exam (1 per year) – $0 in-network / 50% out-of-network
    • Hearing aids are not covered.

Amerigroup

  • Amerivantage Select (HMO)
    • $0 Monthly Plan Premium
    • $25 for Medicare-Covered Hearing Services
    • $0 for Routine Hearing Exam and Hearing Aid Fitting/Evaluation (1 per year)
    • Hearing aids covered — $3000 maximum plan coverage offered per year; no listed plan copay for hearing aids.
    • Amerivantage Classic (HMO)
      • $0 Monthly Plan Premium
      • $35 for Medicare-Covered Hearing Services
      • $0 for Routine Hearing Exam and Hearing Aid Fitting/Evaluation (1 per year)
      • Hearing aids covered – $3000 maximum plan coverage offered per year; no listed plan copay for hearing aids.

Blue Cross Blue Shield

  • Blue Cross Medicare Advantage Basic (HMO)
    • $0 Monthly Plan Premium
    • $35 for Exam to Diagnose and Treat Hearing and Balance Issues
    • $5 for Routine Hearing Exam / $0 for Hearing Aid Fitting/Evaluation (each per year)
    • Hearing aids covered – $1500 maximum plan coverage offered, for both ears combined, every 3 years; no listed plan copay for hearing aids.
  • Blue Cross Medicare Advantage Choice Plus (PPO)
    • $20 Monthly Plan Premium
    • Exam to Diagnose and Treat Hearing and Balance Issues – $50 in-network / 50% of total cost out-of-network
    • Hearing aids not covered.
  • Blue Cross Medicare Advantage Choice Premier (PPO)
    • $90 Monthly Plan Premium
    • Exam to Diagnose and Treat Hearing and Balance Issues – $45 in-network / 50% of total cost out-of-network
    • Hearing aids not covered.

Humana

  • Humana Gold Plus ® H0028-042 (HMO)
    • $0 Monthly Plan Premium
    • $20 for Medicare Covered Hearing Exam
    • $0 for Routine Hearing Exam (1 per year) / $0 for Hearing Aid Fitting/Evaluation (3 per year)
    • Hearing aids covered – $699 for advanced level hearing aid (1 per ear, per year) / $999 for premium hearing aid (1 per ear, per year.)
  • Humana Gold Plus ® H0028-038 (HMO)
    • $0 Monthly Plan Premium
    • $40 for Medicare Covered Hearing Exam
    • $0 for Routine Hearing Exam (1 per year) / $0 for Hearing Aid Fitting/Evaluation (3 per year)
    • Hearing aids covered – $699 for advanced level hearing aid (1 per ear, per year) / $999 for premium hearing aid (1 per ear, per year.)
  • HumanaChoice ® H5216-128 (PPO)
    • $0 Monthly Plan Premium
    • Medicare Covered Hearing – $35 in-network / 30% of the cost out-of-network
    • Hearing aids not covered.
  • HumanaChoice ® R4182-001 (Regional PPO)
    • $0 Monthly Plan Premium
    • Medicare Covered Hearing – $35 in-network / 30% of the cost out-of-network
    • Hearing aids not covered.
  • HumanaChoice ® H5216-043 (PPO)
    • $15 Monthly Plan Premium
    • Medicare Covered Hearing – $35 in-network / 40% of the cost out-of-network
    • Hearing aids not covered.
  • HumanaChoice ® R4182-004 (Regional PPO)
    • $48 Monthly Plan Premium
    • Medicare Covered Hearing – $45 in-network / 40% of the cost out-of-network
    • Hearing aids not covered.
  • Humana Gold Choice ® H8145-126 (PFFS)
    • $50 Monthly Plan Premium
    • Medicare Covered Hearing – $45 in-network / $50 out-of-network
    • Hearing aids not covered.
  • HumanaChoice ® H5216-042 (PPO)
    • $87 Monthly Plan Premium
    • Medicare Covered Hearing – $35 in-network / 40% of the cost out-of-network
    • Hearing aids not covered.
  • HumanaChoice ® R4182-003 (Regional PPO)
    • $89 Monthly Plan Premium
    • Medicare Covered Hearing – $45 in-network / 40% of the cost out-of-network
    • $0 for Routine Hearing Exam (1 per year) / $0 for Hearing Aid Fitting/Evaluation (3 per year)
    • Hearing aids covered – $699 for advanced level hearing aid (1 per ear, per year) / $999 for premium hearing aid (1 per ear, per year.)
  • Humana Gold Choice ® H8145-084 (PFFS)
    • $116 Monthly Plan Premium
    • Medicare Covered Hearing – $45 in-network / $50 out-of-network
    • Hearing aids not covered.

Wellcare

  • WellCare Dividend Prime (HMO)
    • $0 Monthly Plan Premium
    • $50 for Medicare Covered Hearing Exam
    • $0 for Routine Hearing Exam and Hearing Aid Fitting/Evaluation (1 per year each)
    • Hearing aids covered – $750 allowance given per year towards the purchase of 1 hearing aid.
  • WellCare TexanPlus Value (HMO)
    • $0 Monthly Plan Premium
    • $25 for Medicare Covered Hearing Exam
    • Hearing aids not covered.
  • WellCare TexanPlus Classic (HMO)
    • $0 Monthly Plan Premium
    • $35 for Medicare Covered Hearing Exam
    • $0 for Routine Hearing Exam and Hearing Aid Fitting/Evaluation (1 per year each)
    • Hearing aids covered – $750 allowance given per year towards the purchase of 1 hearing aid.
  • WellCare Value (HMO-POS)
    • $0 Monthly Plan Premium
    • Medicare Covered Hearing Exam – $30 in-network / 35% of the cost out-of-network
    • Routine Hearing Exam (1 per year) – $0 in-network / Not covered out of network.
    • Hearing Aid Fitting/Evaluation (1 per year) – $0 in-network / Not covered out of network.
    • Hearing aids covered – $750 allowance given per year towards the purchase of 1 hearing aid.
  • WellCare TexanPlus Choice (HMO-POS)
    • $0 Monthly Plan Premium
    • Medicare Covered Hearing Exam – $0 in-network / 40% of the cost out-of-network
    • Hearing aids not covered.

The listings above – while informative to quickly discern a plan’s offered hearing benefits – won’t give an entire perspective towards an advantage plan’s highlights; you’ll find that rising premiums do not always correlate to a reduction, or an improvement, of the plan’s hearing coverage. In many of the examples, what was offered for hearing aids could’ve been a result of determination between justifying the plan’s network rules, comparison to its dental coverage, etc. – the list really goes on. 

Notice that a plan will typically offer hearing aid assistance through one of three manners – 

  1. An allowance, which provides a certain amount of money given per offered period that can be put towards the device of your choice. In some cases, you may only be able to spend your allowance on one device, rather than splitting the amount across two hearing aids.
  1. A listed copay for the hearing aid of your preference makes things simple – the plan has vendors of which they work with, and when enrolled, you can just pay the copayment for either an advanced or premium level hearing aid. This method is straight-forward and doesn’t require balancing between an allotted amount and out-of-pocket expenses.
  1. A maximum coverage limit, much like an allowance, is an amount that the plan 

essentially will pay towards the device of your choice. Generally, you’ll first be expected to select a device from a viable vendor within the plan’s network, after which they will pay to cover the device (or devices) up to the coverage amount per period offered. 

For example, if the device of your choice ends up being $4500 dollars, but your plan’s maximum coverage limit is $3000, they will only pay up to $3000 of the device – the rest ($1500) will be an out-of-pocket expense. If you attempt to purchase another device before your next limit period, you’ll pay entirely out-of-pocket.

By making appropriate judgements between your needs for hearing coverage, especially regarding hearing aids, you can properly adjust for a plan that will make the room you need – remember, you have many opportunities available to enroll into a Medicare Part C advantage plan, and a hearing aid is a significant investment worth considering every time you’re thinking about another option! By getting yourself set up on one plan, hearing aid ready to go, you’ll still be completely free to revisit your needs again the next applicable enrollment period.

  1. Examining Your Current Health – Will Heading Aids Work Well for Me?

An ever-prevalent question on the mind of any senior who even briefly considers a hearing aid is always going to include wondering if they “really need it,” and if so, “why?” Self-qualifying and admitting that your hearing has gotten to a point that you now need a constant crutch to keep it appropriately operational can be difficult to swallow or understand, and because the variables associated with how we hear the world around us can shift so often, we always feel like there may be some uncertainty in our decision to seek out this investment. With such incredibly high costs at every step, there should be no reason to feel like your justifications for aid, based on the hearing in the world around you, are at error – however, hearing aids do not work the same for everyone, and in events where hearing has been too damaged, may not work at all.

Feeling uncertain is a completely normal emotion about making such a notable choice about your health – the factors that will be brought up both before your decision, and after, all involve a sense of individual comprehension of your preferences and realities in the hearing world around you. For example, consider the next following thoughts, and apply them to your own experience; if you have no experience or opinion on the feeling, try your best to assess your preferences, and carry on:

  • Do you find yourself directly speaking to people often, either face to face or in proximity, or is there a fair share of distant conversations, such as by phone or across your home and workplace?
  • Do you genuinely believe that hearing aids will service your hearing? Are you willing to flexibly adjust to the changes a hearing aid will bring to your world’s audio and accept the responsibility of adjusting it as necessary for comfort?
  • The brain needs ample time to study and contextualize every possible audio level it will be faced with in your surroundings, meaning you’ll be expected to keep your hearing aid in place and active as much as possible. Could you stand routinely wearing your instrument and not feel constantly bothered by an electronic on your ear/face?
  • Do you constantly find the world around you far too noisy or too quiet for your own taste? Do you find yourself surrounded by relatively large groups of people often, especially where conversations can seem hard to follow and unclear?
  • You may loathe the feeling that you’re constantly asking people to repeat themselves or can’t hear people whatsoever when they attempt to whisper to you – this can create a great self-conscious battle of constant anxiety in your ability to converse with others, and unfortunately, can lead to feeling less inclined to respond at all. Do you feel like you cannot properly be there for who most needs it in your life – your job, your family, your friends – all because of your impaired hearing?
  • For many, the inability to listen to many of the elevations of hearing once had reaches farther than just a dulling of the sense – do you feel as though how you hear now may affect the music and entertainment you once enjoyed without fault?
  • Hearing aids, very commonly, require a sense of confidence in your ability to keep the device in a clean, functioning condition – could you commit yourself to the routines required to upholding the condition of your instrument for your own happiness?

Remember, hearing aids are not a restorative method for your hearing – the judgements made for their installation all derive from places that define our lifestyles and how we’d like to change them with adjusted hearing. Additionally, hearing aids are not an instant process, nor will they likely align to your best tastes until after a few audiologist tweaks – it can take months to years for a senior to become fully accustomed to their device, but perseverance, patience, and a reobservation of the considerations listed above are all the true paramount portions of raising your hearing aid’s potential for success. 

  1. Caring for Yourself – How Do I Adequately Deal with the Common Side-Effects and Life Adjustments?

The addition of a hearing aid to one’s daily life makes a world of difference to how the perception of certain feelings and activities may have to be done – hearing aids are essentially a complete lifestyle determinant on their own, altering your ability to perceive (or not perceive) sounds, which can affect your hobbies, your conversations, and all the regular daily things you’ve been accustomed to overcoming without a second thought. When beginning your journey, freshly worn hearing aid still unfamiliar, you’ll likely be curious about how to properly build your expectations; after all, some of the side effects that come along with either improper adjustments of your device or novice use can seem relatively difficult to deal with on start.

While, obviously, some of the most frustrating side-effects of a hearing aid could be in regards to the actual quality of hearing, it can sometimes be much more than that – our bodies makes use of our ability to hear for many reasons, much like how the other senses operate, and when that communication is disturbed or feels “off,” our body may become irritated or feel that it must continually strain to make things work right. As such, many of the problems you may be burdened with early on using your hearing aid could include:

  • Constant headaches from an improper volume level
  • General annoyance from device being in ear (either too long or is visibly bothersome)
  • Soreness and discomfort in or around the ear (most likely from an incorrect fitting)
  • Irregular static and feedback from ambient sounds (like wind) or physical device contact 
  • Controlling very sudden loud noises like animals, children, and things breaking

However, even if you may not have any significant side-effects, you might continue to ponder on how you’ll keep to the same activities you participated in pre-hearing aid – basically, for those who live simple, sedentary lifestyles, you may not have to consider how things for staying active and healthy, like swimming, running or taking care of children, could be hindered by your hearing aid. As such, devices built with those intentions in mind, with examples like water-proofing or special sleep settings, to just smaller and more durable models oriented for regular exercise, can bridge the gap for those looking to continue their much more active lifestyles.

Almost universally, discomfort with your hearing aid is not intentional and, if gone on too long, means it will very likely require your audiologist to reconsider its set up; preparation and awareness that some of these feelings may occur helps push through particularly difficult periods, but it should not be a constant reality.  Most things listed above – including the headaches, feeling like you’ve got plugged ears, weird levels of volume and static, and physical irritability (especially legitimate pain) – will more than likely require a good review over by your audiologist before refitting, resetting or readjusting all the problematic controls for a hopefully better result.

  1. Common Methods for Upkeep – Adjusting and Maintaining the Comfort, Quality, and Lifespan of your Hearing Aid

Let’s face it – your hearing aid is usually going to be a several-thousand-dollar investment for yourself, and by all accounts, may end up being one of the most important, and delicate, things you’ll end up owning (not to mention keeping on you at most times!) Like anything of equivalent importance, you may be interested in every aspect possible about how you can assure that nothing could possibly strike this investment as a waste; with the gentle and highly-intelligent nature of your hearing device, categorizing every single piece of advice for its care, with great caution, is highly recommended to receive the best bang-for-your-buck over time.

So, what are some thoughts that can go into taking good care of your device – what are some big ones? Here, we’ll discuss just a few of the things that you can do to better help your device in it’s many aspects of service; while some may have a severely greater importance than others, especially for avoiding damage, they all serve to ultimately assist in expanding the window of quality and lifetime your device will have serving you before any more serious assistance is needed (such as from an audiologist.)

  1. Your device should always be handled with dutifully cleaned, but completely dry hands. Even the smallest introduction of dirt, water, or other miscellaneous material (like unwashed food or bacteria) can disturb the speaker phone permanently, blocking its audio and creating more opportunities for possible ear infections in time.
  2. Without the proper special features, your device itself should not be made wet under any circumstance. Remember, only some unique examples of hearing aids will be actually “water-proof” – even so, you must be diligent in avoiding all opportunities where water may condense on your device. Hearing aids should not be worn, kept away safe and dry, in any event that will involve water that may short-circuit or destroy the device – this includes, but is not limited to, swimming, bathing, showering, steam rooms, or even having an abundance of sweat.
  3. Keep your device away from children and animals. This problem reaches both sides of the spectrum – children and animals may be greatly irritated by the noises a hearing aid may make when being adjusted, which can lead them to be disruptive; if a child or pet is disruptive, their volume level may greatly elevates through crying, screams, or barking, likely causing the sound you’ll receive to seem cloudy or incredibly shrill.  Additionally, as your device might be supremely small and delicate, it can be easily lost or broken by a child possession, even for a moment.
  4. Use the hairspray, creams, gels, deodorant, and cologne first; save the hearing aid for last. Even the finest particles and smidgens of a beauty product can cause the aid’s mechanism to be disrupted; additionally, materials like this have been observed to potentially hasten the deterioration of your device if contact is too common.
  5. Keep your ears as clean as possible to avoid earwax buildup. A no-brainer – your device can be affected by something as small as a single drop of water, so significant amounts of wax will simply offer very little in securing a bright future for your instrument. Wax clogs the device’s speakerphone, blocks the amount of sound travelling within your ear, creates higher potential for feedback, and may cause further difficulty cleaning the device later.
  6. Avoid inserting and removing your device above hard surfaces. In general, it is obviously not recommended to ever drop your device, as even a gentle drop could have the potential to cause enough harm on the precise instrument – however, a fall onto a wooden or concrete floor could essentially destroy the device entirely upon impact. Keen observation of your surroundings when removing your device will provide it a better safety net of possibility when considering a worst-case scenario.
  7. While necessary to avoid water and try to always keep your device dry, it should equally not be subject to intense heat. Many situations, like a device being left on a counter in the sunlight or in a hot car, can cause the device damage and rushed deterioration of its quality – drying of a device should be completed either through natural means, in a room-temperature location, or with a gentle heat source (like a hair dryer from about 20+ inches away.)

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