The Better Hearing Institute (BHI), Washington, has published Your Guide to Financial Assistance for Hearing Aids — a guide on how people can obtain financial assistance to purchase hearing aids. Two out of three adults with hearing loss cite financial constraints as a core reason they do not use hearing aids, even though more than 95% of people with hearing loss could benefit from hearing aids, according to the organization.

"No one should go without a needed hearing aid because of an inability to pay," said Sergei Kochkin, PhD, executive director of BHI, in a statement. "Of the thousands of annual inquires we receive, the most frequent topic concerns financial assistance for hearing aid purchases. Sixty-one percent of hearing aid purchases involve no third-party payment. Yet, today’s modern hearing aids hold great potential to positively change the lives of so many."

Kochkin noted that hearing aids are not covered under Medicare or under the vast majority of state health benefit programs. Private insurance coverage is limited for adults, and only 15 states have enacted insurance mandates covering children.

The publication provides a financial resource for people considering a hearing aid and allows them to quickly and easily identify charitable foundations, private organizations, insurance plans, corporate benefits, and government programs that help people access the hearing care they need.

"Medicare, state insurance programs, or private insurers cover canes and crutches, and often help people afford glasses, braces on their teeth, cosmetic surgery, Viagra for better sex lives, and other solutions to improve quality of life," said Kochkin "But hearing loss is like a neglected orphan in this health care system."

The average cost for a hearing aid in 2008 was $1,675, including fitting, evaluation, and post-fitting treatment. Nearly 80% of people with hearing loss require two devices, increasing average out-of-pocket expenses to $3,350, said BHI.

According to BHI research, 33% of people with hearing loss have annual incomes of less than $30,000. In addition, household incomes of people with untreated hearing loss are usually much lower than those of their nonhearing-impaired counterparts.

When left untreated, hearing loss reduces earning power, disrupts relationships, and causes a wide array of psychological problems, Kochkin said. Hearing loss is one of the most commonly unaddressed health conditions in America today, and affects more than 34 million Americans, according to BHI. Six out of ten Americans with hearing loss are below retirement age. Numerous studies have linked untreated hearing loss to a wide range of physical and emotional conditions, including irritability, negativism, anger, fatigue, tension, stress, depression, avoidance or withdrawal from social situations, social rejection and loneliness, reduced alertness and increased risk to personal safety, impaired memory and ability to learn new tasks, reduced job performance and earning power, and diminished psychological and overall health.

Advances in digital technology have dramatically improved hearing aids in recent years, making them smaller with better sound quality. Designs are modern, sleek, and discreet, yet functional. Clarity, greater directionality, better speech audibility in a variety of environments, better cell phone compatibility, less whistling and feedback then hearing aids of the past, and greater ruggedness for active lifestyles are common features.

"There are many Americans of all ages with unaddressed hearing loss who can benefit from the use of hearing aids," said Kochkin. "We hope that this financial guide will help people get the hearing aids they need to appropriately address their hearing loss and improve their lives."

[Source: BHI]