Letter sent by HLAA’s Executive Director to Representative Mike Ross. Read the letter [View PDF]
Employers and Insurance Coverage of Hearing Aids
If you wish to urge your employer to include hearing aids as an eligible expense in your insurance policy, HLAA has some advice for you. Begin by identifying the office responsible for managing and making decisions about health care benefits. Meet with the appropriate individuals and explain why you or someone in your family needs hearing aids. Be sure to discuss how hearing aids enhance your ability to function at work. For a child, note that hearing aids allow fuller participation in the classroom and enhanced language development. If you already have hearing aids, discuss how much they cost. Also note that the hearing aid fitting and follow-up must include services from a qualified hearing care provider. Review the information on the right before going and leave a copy with the benefits personnel. Be sure to let us know if you are participating in this effort and what the result has been.
The full text of the above discussion was published in Hearing Loss and will be provided upon request from the HLAA National office (Please include a stamped, self-addressed envelope.) We encourage you to use the Fact Sheet in your efforts. Permission is given in advance to anyone who wishes to print this web page or copy the Fact Sheet: Hearing Aids, Health Benefits and Insurance Coverage from Hearing Loss.
- Hearing aids are a critical first step in treating hearing loss. Being properly fitted with hearing aids can make a major difference in an individual's ability to understand speech. Consequently, hearing aids can make a major impact on quality of life.
- More than 80 percent of all hearing loss is sensorineural. This type of hearing loss is generally not amenable to medical or surgical treatment. Fortunately, it can be helped most of the time by being fitted with hearing aids.
- Hearing aids are effective. The new circuitry designs of today can effectively compensate for hearing loss experienced by people of all ages with a wide variety of hearing loss, from mild to profound.
- Hearing loss is a health issue, and not necessarily a natural process of aging as perceived by some people. If not treated, it can impact on the general and psychological health of the individual through higher stress and anxiety levels resulting in more medical visits and hospital stays. Studies show that people with hearing loss are at risk of experiencing depression, anxiety, stress and chemical dependency which can impact their performance at work and their lifestyles at home.
- Hearing loss affects a large percentage of the population. Approximately nine percent of people in the United States have hearing loss that results in communication problems. More than half of the 26 million hard of hearing adults in the United States are age 65 or less; and 72 percent report that their hearing loss resulted from factors other than aging. (Data from the National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Surveys, 1988 and 1994).
- There is a stigma attached to hearing loss which, for some people who are hard of hearing, may result in an attempt to hide or deny their hearing loss. This is particularly true of employees who fear being seen as less competent if they admit to hearing loss in the workplace. Many people do not want to "make an issue" of their hearing loss, and, therefore, do not request insurance coverage of hearing aids.
- Hearing aids are a major uncovered health care expense. The average cost of a hearing aid in 1997 was $971. Since most people have hearing loss in both ears, the expense is considerable for the individual.
- Children need hearing aids to maximize their residual hearing to enable them to learn language and to participate fully in the education process. Children need new hearing aids regularly during their growth years. Therefore, this is a logical area in which to "spread the risk" by providing insurance coverage so that more employees and family members can afford needed hearing aids.
Some insurance policies cover hearing aids. This has had a negligible effect on premiums to date.
- The California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) -- Benefits include hearing test and hearing aid evaluation at no cost. Coverage of up to $1,000 (per insured individual) every 36 months for hearing aids. This benefit also covers earmolds, hearing aid instrument, initial batteries and other needed equipment.
- The State of Minnesota Employees Insurance -- Employee insurance provides coverage for hearing exams and hearing aids (with coverage of 80 percent of one hearing aid per year as durable medical equipment) for all its employees. The estimated cost of providing this benefit is between 15-23 cents/month for a single employee; and between 37-57 cents/month for an employee and family members.
- Hartford Insurance -- Offers hearing testing and the full cost of two aids every five years.
Lion's Develop Hearing Aid for Low-Income People
Responding to a worldwide problem, the Lions Affordable Hearing Project (AHAP) has developed a low cost, high quality hearing aid. Approximately 150 Million people have a serious hearing loss that interferes with basic communication, education and employment. The cost of quality hearing aids (frequently over $2,000 in US dollars) has made hearing improvement out of reach for low-income people in countries like the United States, but even more so in poorer, developing countries.
Lions Club International Fund (LCIF) teamed with Project Impact to develop and produce a low cost and high quality hearing aid. The aid, which costs about US$100, is assessed to perform at least as well as aids that sell for US$2000. The behind-the-ear, digitally programmable aid has successfully passed clinical trials and FDA approval as well as European certification.
The low cost hearing aid is only available through Lions Clubs in partnership with audiologists. As of October 2004, more than 600 people in Mexico, India, Michigan and Washington have been fitted with the AHAP hearing aid.
For more information contact your local Lions Club.