Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (PA-08) and Republican U.S. Rep. John Katko (NY-24) re-introduced the Help Extend Auditory Relief (HEAR) Act to expand hearing benefits for seniors on Medicare.
Currently, Medicare Part B covers auditory examinations in the event of an accident or illness, but not routine checkups – which physicians recommend to address gradual loss of hearing – or hearing aids. If prescribed a hearing device, the out-of-pocket expenses may be impossible to afford. Typical hearing aid models can cost over $1,000, with the most state-of-the-art devices topping $5,000. People who need devices for both ears face double the cost.
Specifically, the HEAR Act would amend the Social Security Act to include Medicare coverage for hearing rehabilitation, including a comprehensive audiology assessment to determine if a hearing aid is appropriate. It would also extend Medicare Part B coverage to hearing aid devices.
“Hearing loss among older Americans is common, and more serious conditions like depression and anxiety often follow if it’s not addressed. Exams and hearing aids are simple ways to mitigate hearing loss, but those resources are far too costly without insurance coverage,” said Rep. Cartwright. “This common-sense bill supported by both Democrats and Republicans will extend Medicare coverage for hearing aid devices so seniors can access these life-enhancing solutions without breaking their bank.”
“With millions of seniors relying on Medicare as their primary source of healthcare, it is imperative Medicare recipients have access to the care and resources they need,” said Rep. Katko. “I have spoken with countless seniors across Central New York who struggle to afford hearing aids and exams due to the lack of Medicare coverage. For this reason, I am pleased to join Rep. Cartwright in reintroducing the bipartisan HEAR Act. This important legislation requires Medicare to cover hearing aids and other related hearing services. After contributing to Medicare their entire lives, we must ensure seniors in our community have access to comprehensive healthcare that meets their individual needs.”
According to the National Institute on Aging, about one-third of Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 experience hearing loss, and nearly 50 percent of those over 75 have difficulty hearing. People with untreated hearing loss are more likely to report depression, anxiety, anger and frustration, and emotional instability and paranoia, and are less likely to participate in organized social activities than those who wear hearing aids. The degree of depression and other emotional or mental health issues increase with the severity of an individual’s auditory impairment.
During the previous Congress, elements of this bill were included in the landmark Lower Drug Costs Now Act, passed by the U.S. House in December 2019. The taxpayer savings generated from empowering Medicare to take on big drug companies and negotiate lower prices for Americans on Medicare and private insurance would have been partly reinvested to implement the HEAR Act’s provisions to expand Medicare Part B coverage of hearing benefits.
This legislation is endorsed by SeniorLAW Center, Hearing Loss Association of America, National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly (CARIE).
“Most Americans would agree that hearing is a basic need, and one which should be included in health care for older Americans. In fact, it is shocking that it is not. SeniorLAW Center seeks justice for thousands of older people each year. We are proud to stand with Congressman Cartwright and other supporters of the HEAR Act. This is a benefit long overdue for our parents, grandparents and all older Americans, to whom we all owe so much,” said Karen Buck, Executive Director of SeniorLAW Center, which serves Pennsylvania seniors across our Commonwealth.
“The high cost of hearing aids is a huge barrier for seniors,” said Barbara Kelley, Executive Director of the Hearing Loss Association of America. “Representative Cartwright’s proposed legislation has the potential to help keep seniors in the workplace and enhance the quality of their lives and interactions with friends, family and in the community.”
“Deaf and hard of hearing children and adults are routinely denied hearing aids, which are generally not covered by insurance even though cochlear implant surgery often is. Hearing aids cost thousands of dollars and are not affordable to many deaf and hard of hearing people,” said Howard A. Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). “The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) supports this legislation and we believe it will provide equitable insurance coverage for Medicare beneficiaries.”
“The Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly (CARIE) commends Representatives Cartwright and Katko for introducing the HEAR Act to create access to coverage for hearing aids and auditory rehabilitation services for Medicare beneficiaries,” said Diane Menio, Executive Director of CARIE. “Many may view hearing loss as a mere nuisance but the reality is that there is a clear link between hearing and healthy aging. Untreated hearing loss puts older adults at a higher risk for loss of functioning, dementia, depression, social isolation and even falls. The HEAR Act will go a long way to help improve the health and well-being of older adults.”
This legislation is co-sponsored by U.S. Reps. Yvette Clarke (D-NY-09), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-03), Alcee Hastings (D-FL-20), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18), Betty McCollum (D-MN-04), David McKinley (R-WV-01), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10) and Mike Thompson (D-CA-05).