Medicare, Medicaid and many private insurance plans provide little or no coverage for hearing aids. But some government and nonprofit programs can help Oklahomans with at least a portion of the cost.
The Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services will pay up to $4,450 for a pair of new digital hearing aids for Oklahomans whose ability to work is affected by their hearing loss. Its services include diagnostic testing. The program serves people in the workforce or actively looking for work with annual household income up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level (about $48,000 for a single person or $98,000 for a four-person household). Program manager Jonathon Cook said it has helped people as young as 16 and as old as 88. Last year it assisted 228 Oklahomans.
The Cabaret Hearing for Seniors Program provides new digital hearing aids and full audiology services for $100 to Oklahomans aged 55 or older with annual household incomes at or below the poverty level (about $12,000 for one person or $16,000 for a two-person household.) It served about 60 people last year and has a waiting list of several months. It is operated by the University of Oklahoma’s John W. Keys Speech and Hearing Center in Oklahoma City.
The United Way Hearing Bank, also housed at the Keys Center in Oklahoma City, provides advanced hearing aids and related services for $800 per pair to lower-income people aged 18 or older who reside in Oklahoma, Canadian, Cleveland, Kingfisher, Lincoln, Logan or Pottawatomie counties. Eligibility is capped at 175 percent of poverty level (about $21,000 for a single person, $43,000 for a four-person household). It has no waiting list and assisted about 95 people last year.
The Sertoma Hearing Aid Recycling Program also known as SHARP, provides a single reconditioned hearing aid to lower-income Oklahomans who are tested by a participating audiologist and satisfy the program’s financial criteria. Overseen by a Tulsa nonprofit called TSHA, it charges a $50 refundable application fee and serves people ages 18 and up throughout the state. It is up to an audiologist to determine which ear to fit. The program generally serves people who fall below 200 percent of the poverty line (about $24,000 for a single person). In a typical year, it dispenses about 90 hearing aids. It has no waiting list.
The Senior Citizens Hearing Aid Project covers the cost of a single hearing aid for lower-income Oklahomans aged 60 or older with at least 35-decibel hearing loss. Operated by the Oklahoma School for the Deaf in Sulphur, it serves residents throughout the state and covers the entire cost of a hearing aid for people with household income of up to about $30,000 for a single person and $41,000 for a two-person household. People with income above those levels pay a sliding-scale co-pay. The program’s funding is limited and has a waiting list.
SoonerCare, Oklahoma’s version of Medicaid, covers the cost of hearing aids for qualifying children under the age of 21 in households with annual income up to 185 percent of the poverty level (about $22,000 for a single earner, $45,500 for four people). Hearing aids costing up to about $2,600 a pair are covered when they are determined to be medically necessary. SoonerCare provided assistance to 1,010 children during the 2017 fiscal year. It does not cover hearing aids for adults.
The Children’s Hearing Aid Project, another program operated by TSHA in Tulsa, provides hearing aid assistance for children up to the age of 18 who do not qualify for SoonerCare or other forms of insurance coverage. Participating families are required to provide a sliding-scale co-pay of at least $100. The program has no set income cap, but the co-pay amount rises in proportion to household income. The program helps about five to 10 families per year.