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New Medicare Hearing Benefits Added to the Build Back Better Bill and Passed by the House of Representatives

Good news! In November 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amended version of the Build Back Better Bill (H.R. 5376) that includes several hearing-related provisions. If enacted, this bill would add coverage of treatment services offered by audiologists for the first time in Medicare’s history.
This marks a great stride in offering hearing coverage in the United States. Surveys show that one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 has age-related hearing loss, and nearly half of those over 75 have difficulty hearing. Most Medicare participants are older than 65, meaning that many people covered by Medicare have difficulty hearing and are in need of professional hearing care.
In addition to adding coverage for services provided by audiologists, the bill would also reclassify audiologists as practitioners and add them to the list of providers eligible to offer their services via telehealth. This is important because, as we saw in 2021, telehealth is going nowhere soon. Even as countries around the world make strides in offering COVID-19 vaccines and fighting the pandemic, telehealth services remain vital in making healthcare available to more people.
Telehealth services are especially important for Medicare participants. As Medicare is available to people aged 65 and older, younger people with disabilities, and people with End Stage Renal Disease, some people who use Medicare may have difficulty attending in-office appointments with their healthcare providers, including audiologists.
Furthermore, even as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes, some Medicare participants may feel anxious or hesitant to schedule in-office appointments due to health concerns. By adding audiologists to the list of providers eligible to offer their services via telehealth, these patients will be able to receive the care they need with greater convenience and safety.
The amended version of the Build Back Better bill also includes provisions to add hearing aid dispensers as “qualified hearing professionals” eligible to provide hearing assessment services, as allowed by state licensure. The bill includes coverage of hearing aids for individuals with moderately severe to profound hearing loss in one or both ears once every five years if furnished through a written order by a physician, audiologist, or other practitioner for devices that are determined appropriate by the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. In addition, the bill excludes hearing aids from competitive bidding when furnished by a physician or other practitioner to their own patients as part of a service.
The American Academy of Audiology (AAA), the Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA), and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) have supported these hearing provisions as part of the Medicare Audiologist Access and Services act (H.R. 1587/S. 1731). The focus of these efforts is to ensure that audiologists are able to provide the full range of services under Medicare that they are educated, trained, and licensed to provide. While these provisions mark significant progress, the AAA, ADA, and ASHA believe more work remains to be done to ensure access to audiology care.
To learn more about the services offered by our skilled hearing professional, we invite you to contact us today.

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Can I Program My Own Hearing Aids?

Hearing Aid And Deaf Care

If you wear hearing aids, you probably know that from time to time, they need to be programmed. Whether you are getting the right fit on new hearing aids or need to adjust the programming after some use, you might want to simply do it yourself.

Although a hearing aid professional should always be the individual to program your hearing aids to ensure a good experience, you can get troubleshooting tips for when you don’t have professional help. Here are some things you should know about programming your own hearing aids.

Can I program my own hearing aid?

As noted above, hearing aid professionals must program your hearing aids for you. They are trained and experienced in programming hearing aids. However, in the future, there may be situations in which you can program your own hearing aid, but that is not the case right now.

Things that are considered when programming your hearing aid

First things first – you choose your hearing aid(s).
Here are a few features that are considered when certain hearing aids are considered:

  • Multiple frequency channels so you can adjust each frequency independently of the others
  • A low delay processor, which reduces the echo perceived from a time delay between air conducted sound and amplified sound
  • An adaptive directional microphone that automatically becomes directional in noisy situations so you don’t need to change programs. This can be very important for improving the quality of speech in noisy environments.
  • An open fit that offers comfort (Open-fit hearing aids do not require custom ear molds.)
  • A good feedback canceller, which allows greater amplification without whistling and is essential in open fit devices

If you need help choosing a hearing aid, talk to your hearing aid professional. They will be happy to assist you.

Adjust your hearing aids at home. You probably spend the majority of your time inside your home, so this is the ideal place to adjust your hearing aids. Using your hearing aids as much as possible, even alone in your home, ensures that everyday sounds are exactly the way you want. Try listening to the radio or TV while you wear your hearing aids to make sure everything is adjusted properly. Don’t be surprised if some household noises, like the sound of the fridge, sound louder. Listen to real sounds, like your own voice and someone else’s, while programming.

Make sure you utilize your hearing aid manufacturer’s app! There are tons of tips and tools you can find on the app that is connected to your hearing aid. Use the tools you have to ensure you are getting the most out of your hearing aid(s).

To learn more about hearing aid programming, we invite you to contact our office today.