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How to get free hearing aids — discounts, deals, and grants

Several private and government agencies exist to help people in need get free hearing aids.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Ruth Reisman

Writtenm by

Dr. Ruth Reisman

Updated:

May 10, 2024

A child gets fitted for a hearing aid by a doctor. A child gets fitted for a hearing aid by a doctor.

The 3 key takeaways

  • Most health insurance plans don’t cover hearing aids – While some plans may cover part of the assessment and fitting costs associated with hearing aids, it’s rare for a provider to cover the devices themselves.
  • Low-income families may qualify for hearing aid coverage through state Medicaid programs – Look into your state’s plan for more information on specific coverage terms.
  • Charities offer free and discounted hearing aids – While government-run hearing programs tend to vary between states, there are several nonprofit organizations across the U.S. dedicated to helping people get financial assistance for hearing aids.

An estimated 48 million people in the U.S. suffer from some degree of hearing loss, yet less than 14% of them use hearing aids to treat their condition. With an average cost of $2,300 per prescription hearing aid, it’s easy to see why this is the case.

While some health insurance providers offer partial coverage for prescription hearing aids, fittings, and hearing assessments, it’s rare for an insurance company to completely cover these services. This leaves patients with high copays they often still can’t afford.

Over-the-counter hearing aids are a new alternative claiming lower costs than prescription models, but with an average cost of $1,600 per pair and no available insurance coverage, these are also too expensive for the average person.

Even if your insurance provider doesn’t offer hearing aid coverage, there are still some ways to qualify for free or discounted hearing aids. We’ve compiled a helpful list that breaks down the basics of national insurance programs like Medicare and Medicaid; specialized grants and programs available to seniors, veterans, children, and low-income families; and a general list of hearing aid discounts available through charities and big-box retailers.

Paying for healthcare can seem like a daunting task, but these programs are bound to offer the assistance you need to access quality hearing aids.

How to get free hearing aids for seniors

Seniors are the group most affected by hearing loss, with the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimating nearly 25 percent of people ages 65 to 74 have disabling hearing loss.

That number jumps up to 50 percent for people 75 and older. Seniors can take advantage of these programs to get free hearing aids, or receive financial assistance to cover part of the cost.

Medicare and Medicaid

Medicare is federal health insurance for people 65 or older. This program consists of Medicare Part A, which covers hospital visits, select services at nursing facilities, and hospice care; and Medicare Part B, which covers doctor’s appointments and other outpatient services.

Neither of these cover the cost of hearing aids or the exams required for fitting one,  though Medicare Part B will mostly cover diagnostic hearing exams as long as your doctor orders them to help diagnose an underlying hearing problem. In these cases, patients are expected to pay 20 percent of the Medicare-approved cost for each exam.

Private insurance companies also offer Medicare Part C (also known as Medicare Advantage) and Medicare Part D, which can offer additional coverage to the services provided in parts A and B. Contact a Medicare Advantage representative to see if your state’s program offers hearing aid coverage.

Medicaid is national health insurance that covers millions of eligible low-income adults, children, pregnant women, seniors, and people with disabilities. Medicaid coverage varies from state to state.

While some states cover part or the entire cost of a patient’s hearing aids, as well as the associated exams and maintenance, other states don’t offer seniors any coverage for hearing devices. Contact your state’s Medicaid office to learn more about your coverage.

You can also use this list from the Hearing Loss Association of America to see what each state covers.

Vocational Rehabilitation

Vocational rehabilitation programs help people with disabilities find and keep a steady job. Retired seniors don’t qualify for this program, but those who are still employed may be able to obtain free hearing aids if they need them to perform their job duties or obtain employment.

Similar to Medicaid, vocational rehabilitation services vary between states. Contact your state’s vocational rehabilitation office to see if you qualify for benefits.

National and State Resources

Select agencies outside of the government exist to provide financial assistance to seniors in need of hearing aids. These programs often get a lot of applicants, so you may have to wait a while before you hear back, but it’s certainly worth it if it saves you money in the long run.

Lists of financial assistance programs are conveniently available online through the Hearing Aid Project and the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). Additionally, seniors can contact their local Area Agency on Aging to inquire about financial aid programs specific to their area.

How to get free hearing aids for veterans

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs cites hearing loss as the most common service-related injury for members of the military. U.S. Veterans can qualify for free hearing aids and other rehabilitative services through the following programs:

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

Veterans with hearing loss can obtain free or significantly discounted hearing aids through the VA’s Veterans Health Administration (VHA). To qualify, you’ll need to apply for coverage directly through the VHA, either online or over the phone.

You’ll also be required to establish your eligibility for hearing aids via an in-person exam with an audiologist at a local VA Medical Center or Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC). Applicants will be asked to present their DD-214 and health insurance cards, as well as proof of income in the form of tax returns or other qualifying documents.

If your income is above a certain level, you may be required to pay $100 copayments for evaluations and fittings. The cost of the hearing aids themselves is fully covered, as are batteries, disposable supplies like wax guards, and follow-up care.

The VA issues all eligible patients premium hearing aids from top-notch companies like Oticon, Phonak, ReSound, Starkey, and Widex. VHA plans even cover accessories like Bluetooth streamers, advanced remote microphones, and specialized alert systems for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

If you’re deemed eligible but previously purchased hearing aids out-of-pocket, you can register them with the VA to receive the accompanying supplies at no additional cost.

Patients deemed eligible for VA healthcare are automatically eligible for audiology care, including hearing evaluations, hearing aids, other assistive hearing technologies, and cochlear implants (if needed). The VHA also provides comprehensive exams and treatment for tinnitus.

Tricare

Tricare is a health care program for service members, retirees, and their families offered by the United States Department of Defense Military Health System. Tricare doesn’t cover hearing aids or audiology care for retired veterans, but they do offer hearing aids to active duty service members if they have hearing loss that meets specific hearing criteria. 

Visit the Tricare website to find a plan that matches your eligibility.

Retiree-At-Cost Hearing Aid Program (RACHAP)

Also sponsored by the Department of Defense (DOD), the military retiree-at-cost hearing aid program (RACHAP) is designed to help retirees purchase hearing aids through a local audiology clinic at a special government-negotiated cost.

This program is open to all military retirees who suffer from hearing loss or tinnitus, though it’s important to note that not every medical facility is able to provide this program. Contact your local audiologist to see if you can lower the cost of your hearing aids through RACHAP.

How to get free hearing aids for children

Boston Children’s Hospital estimates around 4 in every 1,000 children are born with hearing loss. By age 12, about 20 percent of children have some degree of hearing loss. You can receive free or discounted hearing aids for your child through any of the following programs:

Individual Education Program (IEP)

Individualized education programs are designed to provide children in need of special education with the instruction, support, and services they need to succeed in school. Children can receive hearing aids and other assistive technology at no cost if their IEP states that they require these devices in order to receive a Fair and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), as guaranteed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

The first step to getting an IEP for your child is to have their school conduct an evaluation for special education. These are usually completed by compiling a student’s test scores, conducting questionnaires with parents and teachers, and having the child tested by a professional psychologist to examine the way they think and solve problems.

Loaner Banks

Non-profit organizations known as hearing aid loaner banks offer immediate access to hearing aids for children in need. These hearing aids are provided as temporary loans to children who are experiencing delays in private insurance or third-party approvals for a permanent hearing aid.

Organizations like 2 Ears to Learn collect and refurbish used sound processors to distribute to children with conditions like microtia and aural atresia at no charge. Parents can view an extensive list of hearing aid loaner banks.

Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT)

EPSDT is a government-mandated child health care service offered through Medicaid that stipulates states must provide hearing services to Medicaid beneficiaries under the age of 21, including appropriate screening, diagnostics, and treatment in the form of hearing aids.

Take your child to your primary care provider if you suspect they have a vision or hearing problem to receive further evaluation and necessary treatment.

How to get free hearing aids for low income

These plans and programs exist to help low-income individuals and families cover the cost of hearing aids.

State Funding Programs

Depending on the state you live in, you may qualify for free or discounted hearing aids through programs like Medicaid, Title V Programs, or the National Assistive Technology Technical Assistance Partnership (NATTAP).

Title V Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Block Grants are designed to provide low-income families access to quality health care, especially in areas with limited access to health care services. These grants are awarded to every state by the federal government and used to fund women’s and children’s health programs across the country. Check online to see what public hearing care programs are offered by your state.

The National Assistive Technology Technical Assistance Partnership (NATTAP) provides referrals for technical assistance to health care professionals across the country. The organization also offers device loan programs, equipment exchange and recycling programs, and state financing activities to provide individuals with the funding they need to acquire necessary assistive technology, including hearing aids.

Contact the NATTAP to see what programs are available in your state.

Flexible Benefits Plan

Some employers offer their employees flexible benefits plans, through which they can select options from a fixed set of benefits (health insurance, retirement accounts, etc.) to create a package that works best for their needs.

Another option offered by flexible benefits plans is the use of pre-tax dollars to cover health and dental insurance premiums; health-related expenses that are not paid by a medical, dental, or vision plan; and dependent care costs. Not every company offers these, but it could potentially cover the cost of your hearing aids if yours does.

Trial Programs

Hearing aid manufacturers sometimes run trial programs to test their new models while they’re still in development. Try reaching out to any of these major manufacturers about potential trial programs if you’re in need of low-cost hearing aids.

General hearing aid discounts, deals, and grants

Thanks to the FDA’s approval of over-the-counter hearing aids in 2022, patients can now get discounted models both online and in-person at big-box retailers. There are also a number of nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping people in need get access to hearing aids at affordable prices. 

Big-Box Stores

Big-box stores like Walgreens, Costco, and Target offer OTC hearing aids from brands like Lexie and HearingAssist at competitive prices. Many of these retailers also offer trial periods so patients can test out their hearing aids before putting any money down, as well as free services like screenings, cleanings, and check-ups. 

On the other hand, big-box store hearing aids tend to be equipped with older technology than contemporary prescription models. Retailers intentionally buy these models from hearing aid manufacturers to cut costs and maximize profits.

Additionally, OTC hearing aid users tend to have limited access to professional audiologists, if any at all.  

audiologists.org

audiologists.org features reviews on hearing aid brands like Jabra Enhance, Sony, and Go Hearing, with in-depth explanations of pricing and monthly financing options for each. Patients can also use the site’s Audiologist Explorer feature to help find the best local specialists for their particular hearing loss needs. 

Charities 

These charities, foundations, and organizations are dedicated to helping people get financial assistance for hearing aids. Many of these charities also accept hearing aid donations, so be sure to ask about that if you’re looking to swap out some older hearing aids. 

Miracle-Ear Foundation. Founded in 1990, the Miracle-Ear Foundation prides itself on giving its patients the “Gift of Sound” in the form of a free pair of hearing aids. The foundation serves adults and children who are unable to afford the high costs of quality hearing aids and have exhausted all other resources for their hearing health, including state Medicaid programs, vocational rehab facilities, and/or hearing assistance offered by the VA.

Gift of Sound recipients also get a three-year warranty, free aftercare, and regular check-ins as part of the Miracle-Ear Advantage.

Starkey Hearing Foundation. The Starkey Hearing Foundation has been helping people with hearing loss around the world for over 40 years now. In 2016, the company opened the first Starkey Hearing Institute in Lusaka, Zambia to address the urgent shortage of hearing health care professionals in underdeveloped countries.

To qualify, patients must submit an application through the foundation’s Hear Now program, which is mainly focused on providing quality hearing instruments to low-income families. 

Help America Hear. The Help America Hear program offers high-quality hearing aids to low-income individuals across the country. The organization stresses that their program should only be used as a last resort to ensure the people most in need are receiving the equipment.

They ask applicants to first exhaust all other financial resources, including available credit, family support, money market accounts, mutual funds, 401(k) plans, trust funds, annuities, savings/checking accounts, and state-sponsored programs.

Other charities, grants, and scholarships for free hearing aids can be found on EarCommunity.org.

Frequently asked questions

Does insurance cover hearing aids?

The answer to this question varies depending on your insurance provider, but generally, it’s quite rare for an insurance company to cover the cost of hearing aids. More commonly, insurers will offer supplemental hearing plans that may include coverage for hearing tests and hearing aid fittings.

Even in these cases, the cost of the devices themselves may not be covered.

Does social security cover hearing aids?

Social security doesn’t explicitly cover hearing aids, but the program does offer monthly payments of supplemental security income (SSI) to adults and children with disabilities or low income that could be used to help cover the cost of hearing aids.

SSI payments are also made to individuals above the age of 65 without disabilities as long as they meet the financial qualifications.