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How Insurance and Cheaper Hearing Aids Influence People's Decisions

Posted May 16 2011 9:00am
What does it take to make someone choose to wear hearing aids? Of course the answer is different for everyone and there are many varying reasons someone may or may not wear hearing aids, but one thing I always thought was that cost was an issue. After all, if hearing aids were cheaper, more people could afford them, and would wear them, right?

From Flickr user AMagill
Apparently not - a study covered by Medical News Today seems to show that if someone does not have insurance for hearing aids or only has partial coverage, lowering the cost of the aids, even by 40%, will not make them more likely to buy hearing aids at a younger age or without severe loss. Only full coverage of the price of hearing aids makes younger or "less deaf" people buy hearing aids sooner.

The study was done by Henry Ford Hospital. They split a group of 1,200 patients into three categories based on how much insurance coverage they had for hearing aids (full coverage, partial coverage, and no coverage). The following results are quoted from the article linked above
The study shows that patients who had full coverage for hearing aids obtained them about seven years earlier and with better hearing than the other two groups. But there was no difference in age or hearing loss between people who paid for the full cost of hearing aids or purchased hearing aids at a substantially reduced cost.

The more patients had to pay out of pocket (partial and private pay groups) the more likely they were to upgrade to a more advanced device. Patients with full coverage were the least likely to upgrade, and only purchased what was fully covered by insurance.

According to the study, the only situation in which patients are motivated to get hearing aids earlier is when they are provided at no cost.
This is really interesting to me. It seems to say people with full coverage may get hearing aids sooner but be more likely to settle for a lower quality brand if that's what insurance will cover. At the same time, people who have to pay out of pocket will save their money until they feel the aids are necessary and spend more for a higher quality device.

Personally I think I would be the same way. I like having better quality hearing instruments so I would probably pay extra for nicer aids. Of course - it would help a lot if only insurance would cover even some of it! (No health insurance I've ever had would cover any hearing aids at all.) And I really think insurance absolutely should cover hearing aids. What do you think?
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