From: The Honorable Matt Cartwright
Sent By: Mae.Stevens@mail.house.gov
Bill: H.R. 3150
Date: 7/15/2014

Cosponsor H.R. 3150 – The Help Extend Auditory Relief (HEAR) Act

Cosponsors (17): Andrews, Cardenas, Clarke, Enyart, Grijalva, Hastings, Johnson, Kuster, Lee, McKinley, Nadler, Norton, Perlmutter, Peters, Scott, Takano, Vargas

Dear Colleague,

According to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), 36 million, or approximately 17 percent of American adults report some degree of hearing loss. This includes one third of individuals over the age of 65, and nearly half of those over 85.[1]

For many people, hearing aids are a simple solution. They are dependable, nearly invisible and can significantly improve quality of life. Unfortunately, without the benefit of insurance coverage, hearing aids and related hearing services can be prohibitively expensive. The most basic models, which are often analog and larger in size, start at $600. Digital aids cost $1400 to $3,000, and open style aids – which are the most advanced and least visible – can cost $5,000 or more. Unfortunately for many patients, hearing aids are sold individually, automatically doubling costs for individuals in need of hearing aids in both ears.

Medicare Part B extends to testing for symptomatic hearing loss from illness or accident; but routine exams, procedures and devices are not included in standard Medicare coverage. Hearing devices are considered elective, a designation that disregards the far-reaching impact of the condition they address.

A study by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) found that people aged 50 and older with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report depression, anxiety, anger and frustration, emotional instability and paranoia, and were less likely to participate in organized social activities than those who wore hearing aids. The degree of depression and other emotional or mental health issues also increased with the severity of their auditory condition.[2]  What’s more, in a 2011 study, the Better Hearing Institute (BHI) examined the impact of hearing aids on specific quality of life factors that affect mental and emotional well-being. More than half of the 1,800 hearing aid owners surveyed said they attributed their use of hearing aids to improvements in their relationships at home, their ability to join in groups, and their social life. Close to half said they saw improvements in their self-confidence, sense of safety, feelings about themselves, and sense of independence, while one third indicated their mental and emotional life improved.[3]

The Help Extend Auditory Relief (HEAR) Act amends the Social Security Act to:

  • Include Medicare coverage for hearing rehabilitation services, including a comprehensive audiology assessment to determine if a hearing aid is appropriate, a threshold test to determine audio acuity, and various services associated with fitting, adjusting, and using hearing aids.
  • Include Medicare coverage for hearing aids, defined as any wearable instrument or device for compensating for hearing loss.

Given the causal relationship between age and hearing loss and the prohibitive cost of treatment, Medicare must include coverage for hearing aids and services. For more information, or to become a cosponsor, please contact Mae Stevens at x-55546 or Mae.Stevens@mail.house.gov.

Sincerely,

Matt Cartwright

Member of Congress