Affordable Hearing Aids for Folks of Modest Means
By Stephen O. Frazier, VP of Albuquerque SHHH
Editor: Hearing aids are expensive! There’s no getting around it. With growing concern that a lot of folks are just flat unable to afford hearing aids, some measures are in the works, including efforts to secure a tax credit for hearing aid purchases and efforts to require health insurance policies to cover hearing aids. An organization called Audient Alliance is doing something NOW. Here’s Steve Frazier with the story.
One of the major reasons given by Hard of Hearing individuals for not purchasing hearing aids is their cost. During his visit to Albuquerque last February, Terry Portis, Executive Director of the national Self Help for Hard of Hearing People (SHHH) organization, told members of the local chapter that the average cost for a pair of hearing aids today is $3,400, a figure that puts them out of reach for many – especially seniors. $1,700 per hearing aid secures a medium quality, fully digital hearing aid but there are less sophisticated models available for about half of that – still making a pair cost up to $2000 when incidental costs are included.
A spokesperson for the local SHHH chapter says that one of the most frequent complaints voiced by people who contact the group is the high cost of hearing instruments and the most frequent question is, “Where can I get affordable hearing aids?” To address this problem, the national SHHH organization has joined in promoting a new program entitled AUDIENT, an alliance for accessible hearing care for low income populations who are challenged by the cost of hearing care.
Central to this program is the availability of high quality digital hearing aids at a cost that makes them affordable to those who otherwise might not have adequate financial resources. The alliance, formed by the Northwest Lion’s Foundation for Sight and Hearing, includes hearing healthcare providers, hearing instrument manufacturers and leading institutions across the country who want to serve SHHH members and others who are unable to pay for the hearing care they or their families need.
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To qualify for this plan, an applicant’s annual income must not exceed $23,500 for a single adult or $31,225 for a family of two. Applicants are screened by AUDIENT to determine income qualification and then referred to a participating local hearing care professional for a hearing test, ear molds and the dispensing of the instruments. Those applicants who meet the income requirements can get good quality digital hearing aids including fitting, adjustments and ear molds for either $599 or $625 for a single hearing aid, or $988 or $1040 for a pair. The difference of cost depends on the patient’s hearing needs.
These fees include the cost of fitting patients through AUDIENT providers. The fees are the same from all providers and include fitting and orientation, ear molds, up to three aural rehabilitation follow up visits, and administration of an outcome measure questionnaire, from which AUDIENT will collect outcomes data. The diagnostic evaluation is charged separately.
To apply for care now, or to learn more about the program, AUDIENT can be contacted directly at 1(877) 283-4367. Interested parties can also visit the AUDIENT website: http://www.audientalliance.org/index.htm or contact a program services representative by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org