More than 70 million Americans will experience some form of hearing loss by 2060 as the elderly population continues to steadily grow — and insurers still aren't picking up the tab for hearing aids.
In fact, most services related to detection and treatment of hearing loss not covered by insurance.
“Hearing loss is a major public health issue,” said study lead author Adele Goman, research fellow at Johns Hopkins University's Center on Aging and Health.
Adults who are 70 years old and older will make up 55% of all adults with hearing loss by 2020, according to a report published Thursday in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. By 2060, adults 70 years and older will account for 67% of all adults with hearing loss.
Overall, the share of the adult population 20 years or older with some kind of hearing loss will rise from 15% in 2020 to 22% over the next four decades. By 2060, people with moderate or significant hearing loss will exceed the number of people who today have mild hearing loss.
A June report by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine estimated between 67% and 86% of people who might benefit from using a hearing aid never get them.
The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to cover hearing exams but devices are not covered by Medicare and many private payers. Medicaid coverage differs in each state. Hearing aids can cost between $1,200 to $3,500 per device, according to AARP. As many as 80% of people need two. And the devices should be replaced every four to six years.
A health plan that does cover hearing aids often pays between $500 and $1,000 for a device every three to five years.
About 20 states require insurers to cover the costs of hearing aids for children under the age of 18, while only New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Arkansas require health plans to offer similar coverage for adults.
In its June report, NASEM recommended the CMS make regulatory changes that would make healthcare services more affordable for Medicare beneficiaries.