Hearing – Aids

Hearing Aids No Longer Helping?

It is common for users of hearing aids to complain that they no longer work for them. Don’t despair: while hearing loss may be progressive, so is technology. Strides in improvement are rapid and if one’s hearing aids are a few years old, it may be possible to have them “tune up,” that is, adjusted to compensate. Or, new aids incorporating the newest technology may be available. The improvement in quality of life may be worth the investment.

Accommodating to New Aids

When acquiring new hearing aids, some don’t wear them consistently and they end up in a drawer. It is necessary to wear hearing aids consistently – leave them in when awake. Hearing is a process of PERCEPTION and one’s brain has to learn to interpret the new stimuli presented. This can take weeks and also applies to accommodating to changed settings (adjustment) made to aids as well as to new aids.


RESOURCES

Buying Hearing Assistive Devices


Riderwood Resources

  • Riderwood Medical Center: The Medical Center staff will put residents in touch with an outside provider of audiology services. An audiologist is available through the Medical Center.
  • Resident Life provides information to residents wishing to learn more about resources for low hearing.
  • See also Telephones – Closed Captions, for free phones that provide closed captions for incoming calls.
  • Assistive Technology and Adaptive Devices – Riderwood Presentations on Living Well with an Assist – a three part video series, 1 to 1 1/2 hour each. Presented at Riderwood, October, 2021.

Paying for Hearing Aids

Veterans

Residents who are veterans and who are eligible for VA benefits should look into obtaining hearing aids through the VA.(VA Washington DC health care / Location)

  • Audiologists evaluate hearing loss and, if hearing aids are needed, they may be provided free of charge, a very valuable benefit.
  • A trial period can be used to try out new aids.
  • Periodic hearing tests are conducted and adjustments made if needed.
  • Aids may be replaced periodically.
  • Where: One resident uses the services of the audiology department at the VA hospital in Washington, DC.
    • There is a walk-in clinic in Gaithersburg where parking and other access is better than downtown DC.
      • As of this writing (Aug, 2022), hearing tests are not available at the Gaithersburg facility due to lack of a hearing test booth and equipment.
      • Other locations for VA audiological services:
      • Camp Springs VA – Southern Prince George’s County VA Clinic
    • Baltimore VA Medical Center: (Faciity map)
    • Walter Reed National Medical Center Bethesda has an Audiology and Speech Pathology Center. Retirees can get a hearing test and hearing aids for which there is a cost. Thus is is advantageous to obtaining hearing aids through the VA at no cost.

Insurance

  • Many insurance plans provide coverage for the services of an audiologist.
  • Co-pays are commonly involved.
  • MEDICARE part A & B does not cover costs of audiological services and hearing aids. Supplemental Medicare coverage: Some Medicare Advantage Plans (Part C) offer extra benefits that “Original Medicare” does not offer. Review details of coverage to learn more about coverage, including that for heating aids.
  • Erickson Advantage plans offer some coverage for exams and hearing aids. One resident used the audiologist that the Riderwood Medical Center recommended. In addition to an audiological exam, the audiologist provided information on various hearing aids. His out-of-pocket expense was similar to that he would have paid at COSTCO.
  • Residents participating in Kaiser Medical Care Advantage plans benefit from coverage hearing aids under certain tiers of coverage.

Where to Buy Hearing Aids

  • Through audiologist.
  • Residents have found good value at Costco which has a store nearby in Beltsville on route US-1 (Baltimore Ave.).
  • Costco membership required.
  • Hearing tests are administered to “. . . determine if your hearing loss may be helped by hearing aids.”
  • Tests are administered by licensed audiological technicians.
  • Read about their services at Costco Hearing Aids. Others obtain them with the advice of their audiologists.
  • Audiologist Clifford Olson discusses differences in quality of “tuning” of hearing aids at COSTCO.
    See his video. At COSTCO, (YMMV)
  • MD Hearing – a resident acquired hearing aids by mail at a considerable savings and with a money-back trial period. The aids are adjusted remotely by MD Hearing connecting via a cell phone. Parenthetical note: a resident noted that they aids from MD Hearing are always on sale.

FDA’s New Rule: Over-the-counter Hearing Aids

  • In August, 2022, the FDA announced a new rule allowing for over-the-counter (OTC) sale of hearing aids – opening up the market.
  • It is expected that this will make aids more available, thereby lowering costs.
  • A Press Release entitled,, “FDA Finalizes Historic Rule Enabling Access to Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids for Millions of Americans,” and indicates that “More Affordable Hearing Aids Could Be in Stores as Soon as Mid-October.”
  • The pres release details the implications of the new rule, including an expectation of lower costs [because buyers would not need to have aids prescribed by an audiologist].
  • Caveat: “The OTC category established in this final rule applies to certain air-conduction hearing aids intended for people 18 years of age and older who have perceived mild to moderate hearing impairment. Hearing aids that do not meet the requirements for the OTC category (for example, because they are intended for severe hearing impairment or users younger than age 18) are prescription devices.”
    • In parallel, the FDA also issued a guidance document regarding standards for hearing aids, “Regulatory Requirements for Hearing Aid Devices and Personal Sound Amplification Products Guidance for Industry and Food and Drug Administration Staff.”
    • The guidance is available in the Federal Register.

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