Hearing loss is a frustrating reality for many people as they age, but it can also occur due to illness or injury. Fortunately, hearing aids can help restore some hearing ability for many patients.
Evaluating the Need for Hearing Aids
If you’re concerned about hearing loss, your first step in the process of establishing medical necessity for hearing aids will probably be a visit with your primary care physician. Although their training may equip them with the skills to perform a very basic evaluation of your hearing ability, you will most likely be referred to an audiologist for a more in-depth examination.
An audiologist will be able to determine what type of hearing test you may need based on your health history, your description of your hearing loss and a physical examination of your ears. Detailed descriptions of your symptoms can help them refine their evaluation.
Tests that measure hearing ability may involve sessions in which you wear headphones and listen for a sound at different frequencies and in each ear both separately and together. Patients who struggle to use headphones or withstand direct examination of the eardrum may be tested in a room specially designed to test hearing. Unless a patient is experiencing pain from an injury or illness, a hearing test is very unlikely to cause discomfort.
Common Types of Hearing Aids
Once an evaluation is complete, the specialist can discuss what types of hearing aids can help restore hearing ability and how much restoration you can expect to gain from their use. Most hearing aids work by amplifying the surrounding sounds in a room, which makes it easier to distinguish speech and other types of distinct sounds.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) describes the following as common types of hearing aids:
- In-the-Canal (ITC) or Completely-in-the-Canal (CIC). As the smallest and most discreet type of hearing aid, some people prefer the fit of these if they do not want their use of hearing aids to be obvious at a glance. Others may find them difficult to take in and out.
- In-the-Ear (ITE). Larger than canal aids, this type sits in the outer part of the ear and may be easier to take in and out.
- Behind-the-Ear (BTE). This style of hearing aid works by fitting over the back of the ear. A tube connected to the device is inserted into the ear to transmit sound. Some styles of BTE aids use a wire instead of a tube and connect with a speaker placed inside the ear canal.
- Extended wear. The design of these hearing aids allows patients to wear them for months on a semi-permanent basis. An audiologist must help fix them into place. They are suitable options for active people because they can be worn in the shower or while exercising.
- Middle ear implants. This option is helpful for people who may dislike wearing traditional hearing aids or may not be able to use them due to having narrow ear canals. A device that is attached at the side of your head receives sounds and transmits them to the implant which sits behind the eardrum and vibrates the middle ear so that it sends signals to your inner ear.
Medicaid Coverage for Hearing Aids
Because Medicaid terms and limits are decided by each state, you must verify coverage rules through your program’s contracted provider or with the state agency that handles Medicaid policy guidelines. Due to the medical necessity presented by hearing loss and the risks associated with that loss, many states do allow this program to provide coverage for hearing aids.
There may be specific rules about what type of hearing aids are included in this coverage and what steps you may need to take in order to qualify for those benefits. You should discuss your needs with your healthcare team and your provider in order to understand all your options.