Some level of hearing loss may be inevitable as we age due to normal changes in the inner ear, but many people over the age of 65 experience severe hearing loss that inhibits their ability to interpret normal speech. While hearing aids can assist some of these people, some people don’t gain any significant hearing benefits from them. Cochlear implants provide an alternative that can help restore hearing. The question for those who rely on Medicare insurance for health care is whether Medicare coverage includes cochlear implants.
Medicare and Prosthetics
Medicare Part B includes coverage for a wide range of prosthetics. Cochlear implants are on the list of approved, surgically-implanted devices. Before opting for a surgical approach like cochlear implants, your doctor will evaluate your condition and assess your specific needs. If you struggle with normal hearing activities like hearing and understanding spoken words on television, picking out environmental noises, or listening when there’s a lot of background noise, you may be a candidate for cochlear implants.
Your physician will conduct tests to demonstrate the nature of your hearing loss, and if you will not benefit from a hearing aid, cochlear implants may be discussed. Your hearing loss must prove severe enough that it actively inhibits your understanding of spoken words. If you have a medical condition that might increase the normal risks of having the implants, your doctor will discuss your options with you.
How the Implants Work
A basic hearing aid essentially makes sounds louder, which makes it easier for your ears and auditory nerves to translate the sounds you hear. Cochlear implants take a different approach and avoid the damaged parts of your ear. The device converts sound into electrical signals. It then uses those signals as stimulation for your auditory nerves.
If you think of your ears like a stretch of road, hearing loss is like damage to the road itself. Sound has more and more trouble driving over the damaged parts of that road. The cochlear implant effectively sends sounds on a detour so they can still reach your brain. After your procedure, you will engage in the necessary rehabilitation process that teaches you how to interpret the signals you get from the implants.
Costs of a Cochlear Implant with Medicare
Medicare Part B covers the costs of prosthetic devices needed to replace a body part or function when a doctor or other health care provider enrolled in Medicare orders them. Your implant must be provided by a Medicare-enrolled prosthetic supplier that participates in Medicare and accepts assignment. You will likely have to pay 20% of the costs of your cochlear implant and your deductible will apply.
Medicare.org Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)