Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
Hearing aids are expensive, no question. If you’ve recently been told you need hearing aids but hesitate to get them because of the cost, you’re not alone. In fact, financial constraints are one of the top reasons why many consumers who need hearing aids say they will not buy them. But, you can purchase the hearing devices you need without breaking the bank, but it takes persistence and a little consumer savvy.
Financing plans and other support
First of all, have a frank conversation with your hearing center about your financial situation and ask if they offer any options for payment. Some may offer payment plans with no interest or very low interest that fit into your budget. Others may have their own foundation, designed to help patients who may not be able to afford the full cost of their devices. Some centers also collect and refurbish donated hearing aids from benevolent patients who are upgrading their devices. In some cases, these refurbished hearing aids may work for you.
You can also ask your hearing care professional about any community-based programs which offer assistance. For example, Lion’s Club International supports a hearing foundation through some of their local organizations which provides recycled hearing aids to qualified low-income individuals who have been diagnosed with hearing loss and do not receive government assistance for their health issues.
Another financing option is to apply for credit. Many card companies offer an introductory interest rate of 0% for new customers over a specified period of time. Be honest with yourself and determine how much each month you can afford to pay. If you can comfortably pay off the balance before the introductory period ends – and you qualify – it may be worth your while. Sites like Credit Karma can help you identify which cards offer these introductory rates and find the right option based on your credit rating.
Some credit companies specialize in healthcare financing. Ask if your hearing healthcare professional accepts one of these two credit cards:
- Care Credit (Synchrony Financial) is one of the largest health, wellness and beauty credit cards in the nation, offering financing for cosmetic, dentistry, hearing, LASIK & vision, veterinary and other healthcare procedures. More than 175,000 health care providers accept Care Credit cards. The company typically offers a no interest option for purchases over $200 for terms of six, 12, 18 and 24 months. You can apply online or through participating healthcare professionals.
- Wells Fargo offers healthcare financing through their Wells Fargo Health Advantage credit card program which carries an annual percentage rate of 12.99%. Special terms include no interest if paid in full within six, 12 or 18 months, depending upon the amount of purchase. Qualified applicants can apply online and use the card at participating healthcare providers.
If you’re still working, ask your employer if your health benefits package includes a flexible spending account (FSA). FSAs allow you to bank up to $2500 tax-free dollars each year to pay for co-payments, prescription medicines, deductibles and other out-of-pocket healthcare costs such as hearing aids.
Most FSAs cover hearing exams and hearing aids, including purchase price, maintenance costs and batteries. Although the funds must be used during the calendar year, check with your employer to see if they allow any options to carry over a specified amount to the next year. Also, check with your plan administrator before you bank any dollars for a complete list of allowances as these may change from year to year.
Use your home
Do you own your home? If so, you may be able to use a home equity line of credit (HELOC) to finance your hearing devices. Much like a second mortgage, a HELOC is a loan you agree to pay within a specified term, using your home as the collateral. Interest rates will apply; however, the interest tax deductible. Check with your mortgage lender or bank officer to see if you qualify.
The average cost of hearing aids can range from less than $1000 to $4000 per ear. If you think you’re saving money by not purchasing these medical devices, think again. Untreated hearing loss might actually cost your money and your health. In a recent study comparing the costs of healthcare for 562,000 privately insured individuals between the ages of 55 and 64, those with untreated hearing loss had medical bills which were 33 percent higher than those without hearing loss.
Annie Simpson, assistant professor in the department of healthcare leadership and management at the Medical University of South Carolina and the author of the study, believes those with untreated hearing loss may avoid or delay going to the doctor due to communication difficulties. Those decisions may lead to a sicker patient who needs extended, more expensive, care.
Research also tells us that untreated hearing loss can cause a variety of other medical conditions, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as increase anxiety, social isolation and depression. Hearing loss has also been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, falls due to balance issues, and personal safety due to an inability to hear warning signals inside and outside the home.
Here’s the good news: research by the National Council on Aging indicates hearing aids significantly improve the social, emotional, psychological and physical well-being of those with mild to severe hearing loss. Patients in another study report at least one area of their life was improved by wearing hearing aids. Hearing aids are smaller and more discreet than they were even five years ago, and the technology makes it easy to connect to your favorite personal electronic devices.
Now that you know hearing aids can be affordable and have such a significant positive impact on your life, it’s time to take action by finding a hearing healthcare professional near you. The sooner you begin, the sooner you’ll be hearing your best. And healthy hearing is hard to put a price tag on!