Medicare Hearing Coverage: Hearing Aids, Auditory Implants and Medicare Coverage Policy

hearing-loss-medicare-imageAccording to a study in a  Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)  article from 2012, over 30% of adult older than 65 years sensorineural hearing loss, also called presbycusis and as many as 70% of those older than 85 years found to have it (Ann R. Punnoose, MD; Cassio Lynm, MA; and Robert M. Golub, MD.   JAMA. 2012;307(11):1215. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.185.

What is the best, reasonable treatment for these serious hearing-related conditions? First, hearing can be improved with a hearing aid.

Hearing aids are amplifying devices that compensate for impaired hearing. Hearing aids include air conduction devices that provide acoustic energy to the cochlea via stimulation of the tympanic membrane with amplified sound. They also include bone conduction devices that provide mechanical energy to the cochlea via stimulation of the scalp with amplified mechanical vibration or by direct contact with the tympanic membrane or middle ear ossicles.

Certain devices that produce perception of sound by replacing the function of the middle ear, cochlea or auditory nerve are payable by Medicare as prosthetic devices. These devices are indicated only when hearing aids are medically inappropriate or cannot be utilized due to congenital malformations, chronic disease, severe sensorineural hearing loss or surgery.

The following are prosthetic devices:

  • Cochlear implants and auditory brainstem implants, i.e., devices that replace the function of cochlear structures or auditory nerve and provide electrical energy to auditory nerve fibers and other neural tissue via implanted electrode arrays.
  • Osseointegrated implants, i.e., devices implanted in the skull that replace the function of the middle ear and provide mechanical energy to the cochlea via a mechanical transducer.

Medicare contractors deny payment for an item or service that is associated with any hearing aid as defined above. See §180 for policy for the medically necessary treatment of complications of implantable hearing aids, such as medically necessary removals of implantable hearing aids due to infection.

Despite this high prevalence of hearing impairment and/or deafness and its impact on individual quality of life, and the fact that hearing aid are very effective, for the most part Medicare does not cover hearing aid.

Here is the policy:

Hearing Aids and Auditory Implants Medicare Coverage Policy

(Rev. 39; Issued: 11-10-05; Effective: 11-10-05; Implementation: 12-12-05)

Section 1862(a)(7) of the Social Security Act states that no payment may be made under part A or part B for any expenses incurred for items or services “where such expenses are for . . . hearing aids or examinations therefore. . . .” This policy is further reiterated at 42 CFR 411.15(d) which specifically states that “hearing aids or examination for the purpose of prescribing, fitting, or changing hearing aids” are excluded from coverage.

This problem is was featured in a CNN Health article less than a year ago, and indeed hearing loss an ‘invisible,’ and widely uninsured, problem. is not associated with the federal government. All plan information provided on this site is collected from public sources (e.g.,, carrier's website, plan brochures, etc.). Rates shown are for comparison purpose only. Contact your Medicare agent or for a binding quote.