46. Medicare Must Continue to Evolve – Add Coverage for Hearing Aids

By Max Richtman, President & CEO
National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare

As we celebrate Medicare’s 50th anniversary, it’s important to remember that one of Medicare’s most important hallmarks is the program’s long and successful history of adapting to the changing demographic and health security needs of America’s seniors.

Ten thousand Americans turn 65 each day.  A 65 year old senior today may live another twenty years, contrasted with a 65 year old senior in 1965 who was expected to live less than ten years. Unfortunately, living longer (for those who do see increased longevity) does not mean living healthier.

Hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic health condition facing older adults.  Yet an estimated 70% of Americans with hearing problems between age 65 and 84 are not using hearing aids. With an average cost of $3,000 – $7,000 and zero coverage from Medicare, it’s little surprise that for a senior collecting an average monthly Social Security check of $1,287, hearing aids are seen as a luxury they simply can’t afford.  In truth, hearing loss which goes untreated can lead to depression, cognitive impairment, life-altering falls, social isolation and a lack of independence. This not only threatens the well-being of seniors but also carries serious implications for the Medicare program overall.  It’s a threat our nation can no longer afford to ignore.

For millions of American seniors and the Medicare program they depend on it’s clear that silence is definitely not golden.  As our nation marks the 50th anniversary of Medicare, the time is now to expand the Medicare program starting with coverage of hearing aids to ensure our growing elderly population remains as healthy as possible.