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A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (about which the Center for Medicare Advocacy has commented) was recently highlighted by ABC News. The Report, Hearing Health Care for Adults: Priorities for Improving Access and Affordability, rightly names hearing loss as a public health priority and social health responsibility. Even mild hearing loss can double the risk of dementia. Further, hearing loss is directly related to a variety of cognitive impairments, isolation, depression, and an increased risk for falls.

Some recommendations for improving access to hearing aids, according to the Report, include: making hearing tests part of routine check-ups, including the Medicare annual wellness visit; itemizing prices for devices and all services to fit and adjust them, to better allow consumers to choose the treatments that best fit their needs; informing consumers before purchase that some hearing aids can be programmed only by certain providers; and making sure consumers have access to their hearing tests so they can shop around.

There is an even larger issue regarding improved access, however.  Hearing loss affects nearly 30 million Americans, but only 1 in 5 people diagnosed with hearing issues have hearing aids.  This is largely because Medicare currently excludes coverage for hearing aids and related audiology services, which are too expensive for most Medicare beneficiaries to obtain on their own.

The Center for Medicare Advocacy urges policymakers to recognize and respond to the very significant consequences of hearing loss by advancing Medicare coverage for audiology care.  In particular, we urge elected officials to support Rep. Debbie Dingell’s (D-MI) bill, the Medicare Hearing Aid Coverage Act of 2015 (H.R. 1653), which would allow Medicare to provide coverage for hearing aids.”

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