• You are here:
  • Home »
  • Blog »

Hearing Loss: Types, Treatments, and Your Benefit Accounts

Hearing loss is a complicated condition with various types and degrees. It can affect everyone, from infants to the elderly, and can be highly challenging to quality of life. Although commercial hearing aids have been around for many years, they have been cost-prohibitive for many people.

Recent regulatory changes have made high-quality hearing aids available over the counter for the first time, which has lowered the cost substantially. Read on to learn more!

Types of Hearing Loss

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are four main types of hearing loss:

  • Conductive occurs when something stops sound from getting past the outer or middle ear.
  • Sensorineural arises when the inner ear or hearing nerve has a functional issue.
  • Mixed is a combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
  • Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder is when sound enters the ear normally, but the brain can’t understand it due to the inner ear or hearing nerve damage.

How does hearing loss occur?

There are various causes of hearing loss. Common ones include:

  • Chronic ear infections
  • Genetics
  • Environmental factors like viral infections
  • Ruptured eardrums
  • Aging
  • Noise exposure
  • Medications

How is hearing loss treated?

Depending on the cause, severity level, and age of the patient, various treatment options exist. These include, among others:

  • Hearing Aids – These devices address hearing loss by making sounds louder.
  • Television Captioning Devices – These display the audio heard in television broadcasts as written words at the bottom of the screen.
  • TTY Typewriters – These display the words spoken over a telephone line as written text.

Hearing Aids – Prescription and OTC

Audiologists are healthcare professionals who test and diagnose hearing problems and fit hearing aids to solve them. Hearing aids obtained in this manner have traditionally been relatively expensive due to research and development, bundled services, substantial markups, and limited insurance options. This puts them out of reach for many people who need hearing assistance.

However, there’s good news on that front!

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently enacted new regulations to make a category of high-quality hearing aids available over the counter (OTC – without prescription) at retailers like Walmart and Best Buy. Better yet, prices start as low as about $200. Remember to use your FSA, HRA, or HSA reimbursement account to help cover the cost.

External Assistive Devices

While watching TV or talking on the phone, hearing aids alone may not be enough. Most televisions now come standard with captioning options so you can read what characters are saying and be alerted to the use of sound effects. But if your television is not equipped for closed-captioning, you can also use your pre-tax healthcare spending accounts to buy an external adapter. For telephones, you can use FSA or HSA funds to help with the cost of telephone teletypewriters (TTY) and telecommunication devices (TDD) for more effective conversations. 

Medical/Surgical Interventions

Finally, for hearing problems not solved by hearing aids or other assistive devices, there are medication and surgical options. In these cases, your FSA, HRA, or HSA can help with copays, coinsurance, and deductibles. Check your Summary Plan Description documents to see where you can get some payment assistance.