Health Benefits

Have Trouble Hearing? Help Is Here

Human life with a hearing aid. Young man with a hearing aid behind the ear in a noisy city hears people around well

Landmark changes in hearing aids improve access and reduce costs.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently took important steps to improve access to affordable and effective hearing aids.

Approval of Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids

To improve access and reduce the cost of hearing aid technology for millions of Americans with mild to moderate hearing loss, the FDA approved over-the-counter hearing aids last year. Now anyone 18 years of age or older can purchase more affordable hearing aids in stores or online without a medical exam, fitting, or prescription. Hearing aids for severe hearing loss or for those younger than age 18 still require an evaluation and prescription.

Hearing Aids Are Crucial to Overall Health

For people who experience hearing loss, hearing aids are a lifeline. Without them, quality of life drops dramatically; people with hearing loss may become isolated and have trouble engaging in life. Hearing loss can affect everything from family relationships and employment to mental and physical health. In addition, several studies suggest that hearing loss may be a risk factor for the development of dementia.

Children with hearing loss often face difficulties with speech and language development, as well as social skills and emotional development, which can lead to higher rates of depression and anxiety. Children need the ability to listen to the world around them to learn and grow. The good news is evidence shows that early hearing loss intervention gives children struggling with hearing a better quality of life, helping them develop the communication and social skills needed for academic performance and socialization.

When needed, hearing aids are an important part of one’s overall health. However, prescription hearing aids can be expensive, costing anywhere from $1,500 to $6,000 or more, which may force people with hearing loss to either choose a less effective aid or go without hearing aids entirely. Over-the-counter hearing aids range half that cost or less.

According to the FDA, approximately 15% of American adults, roughly 37.5 million, age 18 and over report some trouble hearing. Despite this high number of people with hearing loss and its known health impacts, only about 20% of people who could benefit from a hearing aid use one.

CalPERS Enhances Benefit Coverage

For those members who are in CalPERS Basic health plans, we increased our hearing aid benefit for 2023. We now cover hearing aids at 100% in both ears every 36 months when medically necessary to prevent and treat speech and language development delay due to hearing loss. This is in addition to our routine hearing aid coverage of up to $1,000 in both ears every 36 months.

To learn more about the types of hearing aid products available and when to use them, visit the FDA website.