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My insurance pays for hearing aids! What’s the catch?

Friday, January 18, 2013

By: Jessie Grzeca, AuD


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You may be noticing that you or your spouse are having a little more difficulty hearing, especially in noisy situations. Going out to eat and having a conversation in a busy restaurant have become a challenge and there is less agreement on where the TV’s volume should be set. But daily life is moving quickly and you don’t have time to pay attention to this problem that has been creeping up. Even if you did, the thought of wearing hearing aids is not appealing. Your Grandma had a hearing aid and it was big and clunky. It whistled, and she still couldn’t hear you on the phone! So, what would be the point of spending a lot of money on something that you don’t want? Your friend told you that her insurance did not cover them when her husband was fit for hearing aids and you do not want to spend that kind of money.

 

 

But your new benefits booklet just came out this year and one of the changes highlighted is online hearing aid coverage! Really? Insurance coverage is better this year and not worse? How can that be?

 

 

Here is the good and the bad news: true, many commercial insurance plans have a new type of hearing aid coverage. Testing is completed in a local Audiology office and you send the test results out to a company who provides you with hearing aids. The hearing aids are mailed to you and, voilá! Right? Well, ears are much more complicated than that, and patients who have not worn hearing aids before may not be familiar with all the necessary considerations. For instance:

  • How do I know I am getting the right device for my hearing loss and needs?
  • How is the company going to verify the fit and the prescription?
  • How will I learn to use the device properly?
  • What if I don’t like the feel or the sound of the instrument?
  • What happens if it stops working?
  • What if my ears or hearing change?

 

When you go to an Audiologist, there is a detailed process from selecting the right instruments for your needs, through verification of the settings and continued maintenance through the life of those instruments. Many factors come into play when picking the right instruments such as your lifestyle, occupation and preferences. Custom molds may be needed to obtain a proper physical fit and sound testing in the office will verify the proper acoustic fit. It is also typical for patients to need gradual adjustments to these parameters as they become accustomed to the devices. And finally, ongoing service is typically needed to maintain proper function, including maintenance of the devices, ear and hearing rechecks, repair and warranty service, and fine tuning of the programs and settings. All of these factors are important to obtaining and maintaining the proper function of hearing instruments and most if not all of these services are provided at no additional charge by your Audiologist.

 

 

Not so with online devices. There is no opportunity for face to face discussion and, if there is a problem that can be fixed, it will require sending your instruments away for weeks at a time. So while you will probably pay a little more initially, the value you will gain from the professional services and local availability of your Audiologist will save money, time and stress for many years to come. Not to mention the assurance that you are receiving the optimal hearing ability that will keep you involved in work, social and family conversations (which no longer include disagreements about the TV volume).

 

 

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BayCare Clinic, baycare.net, is the largest physician-owned specialty-care clinic in northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. BayCare Clinic offers expertise in more than 20 specialties, with more than 100 physicians serving in 16 area communities. BayCare Clinic is a joint partner in Aurora BayCare Medical Center, a 167-bed, full-service hospital. Follow BayCare Clinic on Facebook and Twitter.