Once again, sorry for the ridiculous log stint between posts. My fake NYT bestseller is time-consuming.
So I come from a very loud family. Like crazy loud – yelling is a normal conversation tone in my household. My friends thought I was in trouble all the time because when they called or came by my mom was yelling in the background. That loud.
Anyway, with “loud” being a normal volume decibel in my home growing up, I didn’t realize how it was affecting my life outside of my home.
I struggle to hear people who speak very low. Over the past couple years, it’s been getting increasingly worse. I was afraid I was slowly going deaf. So I decided to use my fantastic health insurance and see an otologist (an otolaryngologist who specializes in hearing and balance).
He confirmed I was losing my hearing — specifically my low-frequency hearing.
Low frequency hearing loss is caused by damaged inner ear hair cells. It means I struggle to understand people who are low-talkers or have deep voices. My sisters also have similar hearing problems and wear hearing aids. Based on that information, my doctor said I probably suffer from a genetic condition that causes low frequency hearing loss.
So at the age of 29, I was told I needed to getting hearing aids improve my situation. That was a lot to deal with. But I realized, after having many conversations with people where I had no clue what they were saying to me, I need help.
So I went back to the otologist for a hearing aid consultation. That’s when I found out about the hearing aid racket.
The numbers game
Hearing aids typically range from $1,500 to $3,500 per ear. So basically for both ears you’re paying between $3,000 and $7,000.
I can’t afford that.
When I took my writing vow of poverty, I never expected to have to spend that kind of money on a non-emergent health care item. And I have health insurance that’s coming out of my paycheck every couple weeks. Shouldn’t that cover this disability?
The problem is hearing loss is not a disability.
The dictionary defines a disability as a physical or mental handicap, especially one that prevents a person from living a full, normal life or from holding a gainful job. I would think not hearing someone properly prevents me from living a full, normal life. And the New York Times agrees.
Health insurance companies don’t care what Merriam-Webster thinks or the New York Times for that matter. But they do care what the government thinks.
How health insurance works – the abridged version
When you purchase health insurance – either through your employer or on an exchange – you’re basically participating in a Sou-sou for your health. The insurance company collects your premium every month. When you get sick, it’s your time to collect the “Sou Sou pot.”
To ensure the pot doesn’t go broke, insurance companies place a bunch of regulations on limit how much you can collect and if you are even eligible to collect. The government defines what are expenses that should be covered by insurance.
What’s a disability?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) is the agency that decides what a disability is. According to the SSA, to be considered disabled, individuals must have an impairment, either medical, psychological or psychiatric, that keeps them from being able to do substantial gainful activity.
So to be eligible for disability benefits (which is not anything I’m interested in) you have to have a physical or mental handicap, especially one that prevents a person from living a full, normal life or from holding a gainful job.
Sound familiar right?
But when you look at what makes hearing loss a disability that’s where it goes off the rails.
For a person to be eligible for SSA benefits they must have profound hearing loss or deafness. I have mild to moderate hearing loss.
Why does SSA matter?
I’m sure you’re wondering, “If she doesn’t care about getting SSI benefits, what does it matter if this isn’t a disability?”
Well, my friend, it matters because this decision by SSA affects public and private insurance.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is a division of the Department of Health and Human Services. They administer Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which are all public insurance programs.
You probably know Medicare is for people 65 and older. But it’s also available to people younger than 65 with a disability.
CMS does not cover hearing aids. Those with profound hearing loss can get assistance with hearing aids, but those with mild to moderate hearing loss are generally SOL.
In general, most private health insurance companies follow Medicare’s lead in coverage benefits. CMS does not pay for hearing aids, so private insurers do not pay for hearing aids.
Get to the point Althea!
Basically by not providing coverage for hearing loss, insurers are saying hearing does not matter.
Hearing is one of our five basic senses – sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. Those senses help us experience the wonders of the world and keep us away from danger.
- Insurance covers glasses for those with sight impairments. This signals that it is important to see the world.
- If something is wrong with your nose – like you can’t smell, you have sinusitis or whatever, insurance covers surgical and medical interventions because smelling the earth is important.
- Insurance covers primary care and many specialties, which help maintain your ability to touch elements in the world because it is important.
- Nutrition therapy and other related services are covered by insurance because being able to taste the delicious goodies of the world is important.
So why isn’t hearing important?