April 11, 2011 |

Hearing Aid Assistance for Seniors in Need

Dear Savvy Senior,

Are there any organizations that you know of that offer low-cost hearing aids to seniors on a very tight budget?

Hard of Hearing

Dear Hard,

Unfortunately, there are millions of U.S. seniors with hearing loss that go without needed hearing aids because they simply can’t afford them. Digital hearing aids are expensive, typically costing between $1,000 and $3,000 per ear, and most insurance companies including Medicare don’t cover them.

But there’s good news! Today, there are a number of organizations that offer hearing aid assistance programs to help those in need. Most programs have income requirements that you’ll need to meet to be eligible, and they all require a hearing evaluation by an audiologist, which in most cases you’ll have to pay for yourself. Here’s where to look for help.

Lions Affordable Hearing Aid Project

Provided by the Lions Clubs International Foundation and offered through many local Lions clubs throughout the U.S., this program provides the opportunity to purchase new, behind-the-ear, digital hearing aids manufactured by Rexton, for $200 per aid. To be eligible, most clubs will require your income to be below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, which is less than $21,660 (or $29,140 for a family of two) in 2009. Contact your local Lions club to see if they participate in this project. To reach your local club, visit LionsClubs.org or call 800-747-4448 to get the number to your state Lions Club office, which can refer you to your community representative.

Help America Hear Program

Provided by the Foundation for Sight & Sound and the EarQ Group, this program provides free, digital hearing aids to individuals making less than $25,000 per year. All applicants must be referred by an EarQ hearing professional (call 866-432-7500 or see EarQ.com to find one) and pay a $75 non-refundable application fee. Visit FoundationForSightandSound.org or call 631-366-3461 for more information.

HearNow

A national non-profit program and part of the Starkey Hearing Foundation, HearNow provides new digital hearing aids to those in need, for practically free. Your only costs are a hearing test by an audiologist and an application fee of $100 ($200 if you’re requesting two hearing aids). To be eligible in the lower 48 states, your income must be under $18,403 (or $24,675 as a couple) with limited assets. To learn more call 800-328-8602, or visit Sotheworldmayhear.org/hearnow where you can download an application.

Sertoma

This is a civic service organization that has over 600 clubs nationwide, some of which collect used hearing aids, have them refurbished, and distribute them to local, low-income seniors in need. Call 816-333-8300 or visit Sertoma.org to locate a club in your area. Next month, Sertoma is also launching Hearing Charities of America (HearingCharities.org), an affiliate program that provides hearing aids to those in need who don’t live near a participating club.

Audient Program

This nonprofit service helps people purchase new, digital hearing aids at discounts ranging between 30 and 75 percent. To be eligible, your income must be no higher than $27,075, or $36,425 for a family of two (the guidelines in Hawaii and Alaska are higher). Assets are not considered. Go to AudientAlliance.org or call 877-283-4368 for more information.

Travelers Protective Association of America

They offer a scholarship trust fund to help pay for hearing aids to those who need assistance. There are no income or asset qualifications. Applications must be received each year by March 1. To download an application, visit www.tpahq.org or call 314-371-0533.

Local Organizations

Depending on where you live, other hearing aid assistance programs may be available to you. Check with your Area Aging Agency (call 800-677-1116 to get your local number) or your state assistive technologies director (see www.ataporg.org for contact info.) to find out if there are any city, county or state programs or local nonprofits that can help. Also check the local chapters of service groups such as Kiwanis, Knights of Columbus, Masons, Optimists, Elks, Easter Seals, United Way and Quota International. They, too, may offer assistance.

Savvy Tip: The Better Hearing Institute offers a comprehensive listing of hearing aid financial resources at BetterHearing.org - click on “Resources,” then on “Financial Assistance.”

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

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