Financing Hearing Aids: The Best Options in 2023
If you're careful, there are ways to avoid paying interest on your purchase of hearing aids (Source: Igor Alecsander)
The high price of hearing aids is one of the biggest reasons people with hearing loss don’t get them. With the average price of hearing aids hovering at about $2,500 per device, it’s no surprise more people aren’t buying them.
But there’s one often-overlooked means of making a new pair of hearing aids more affordable: hearing aid financing. And there are several ways to finance the cost of your new hearing aids:
- A healthcare credit card from CareCredit can help pay for hearing aids and many other health-related products and services, with up to 24 months of zero-interest payments.
- Credit cards from your bank allow you to pay off purchases over time, sometimes with extended periods of zero interest.
- Buy now, pay later loan apps that offer installment-plan payments over time can be used to purchase hearing aids.
And that's not all. There are several other potential ways to defray the cost of your hearings aids:
- Flexible spending accounts (FSAs) save money by using pre-tax dollars to pay for your hearing aids and other health expenses.
- Health insurance plans in some cases will help cover the cost of hearing aids.
We will explore each of these options in more detail. But first, let's look at the big picture.
What is “hearing aid financing”?
Financing your hearing aids simply means borrowing money for the purchase by taking out a loan and paying it off over time. But in today’s complex economy, there are many ways to borrow.
If you’ve ever run up a balance on one of your credit cards, you're a borrower. If you’ve got a home mortgage, you’re a borrower. And if you’ve ever used Klarna, Affirm, Afterpay, or one of the many other new short-term buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) lending apps for consumer electronics and other purchases, you’re a borrower, too.
Is hearing aid financing for you?
If you are short on savings but have a job with a steady income that leaves a little more in the bank than you spend every month, it can make a lot of sense to take on a modest amount of consumer debt.
Paying off the balance on a loan over time with your extra weekly income may enable you to afford the things you need now instead of waiting until you’ve saved enough from your paychecks.
What's the catch?
Just remember that lenders require you to pay interest on the principal you have borrowed. If you’ve ever run up a balance on your credit card and been whacked with interest payments of 20% or more, you know that financing can cost you A LOT of extra money.
But if you shop around for the right kind of lender, you may well find a financing plan with interest rate payments you can afford. And if you're confident you will be able to pay off the entire loan over the period of just a few months, you can even find lenders who won’t require you to pay any interest on the loan at all.
How to finance hearing aids
Many people don't realize there are numerous ways to finance hearing aid purchases to make them easier to afford. Let's look at three:
CareCredit healthcare credit card covers hearing aids
The CareCredit credit card is specifically for purchases of medical and health-related supplies and services, including hearing aids. More than 250,000 enrolled health service providers accept the card—not just hearing-aid practices but also pharmacies, primary care physicians, eye care specialists, dentists, dermatologists, chiropractors, fitness clubs, spas, and even veterinarians.
You can use the CareCredit card to pay for out-of-pocket expenses not covered by medical insurance, and special financing options are available that may not be available with other cards. CareCredit offers zero-interest financing options of six, 12, 18, or 24 months on purchases of $200 or more. It also extends financing at interest rates lower than other credit cards for longer-term loans up to 60 months. Those deals can amount to substantial savings on hearing aids.
But—and it's a big "but"—CareCredit is quick to warn that you must make your minimum monthly payments on those no-interest deals. And then at the end of the promotional period, you must pay the full remainder of the purchase price. If you don't make your payments every month, on time, without exceptions, you will be hit with an additional bill for the total interest dating from the original purchase. So when using a CareCredit card, you need to be extra careful about making your on-time payments.
Credit cards can finance hearing aid purchases
You can always charge a pair of hearing aids to your bank credit card and pay off the purchase over time. But credit cards charge high rates of interest. In late January 2023, the average annual percentage rate on credit cards in the U.S. was 23.39%, which could saddle you with interest payments of more than $700 a year on a $3,000 pair of hearing aids if you failed to pay down the principal. So, if you use your credit card to buy your hearing aids, it's a good idea to pay off the purchase right away, or as fast as you can.
But for people with good credit, many card companies offer an initial low- or no-interest period as an incentive to attract new cardholders. And the no-interest periods are often 18 months or longer. Instead of paying $3,000 up front for your new hearing aids, you could pay $166.66 a month for 18 months, covering the entire cost of the purchase without incurring any interest charges over that extended period.
And some banks offer credit cards with special features for consumers concerned about health care costs. AARP and Barclay's Bank, for instance, offer a Mastercard that gives consumers 2% back on eligible medical expenses including hearing aids. And if you purchase the hearing aids within 90 days of opening the account, you get an additional $100 bonus credit on your card.
Buy now, pay later for your hearing aids
"Put a dollar down, pay a dollar a week" was a popular ad slogan from the 1950s. Many seniors in their 60s and 70s who now need hearing aids grew up in post-World War II homes furnished with the assistance of BNPL installment loans. GI's with good prospects but minimal savings took short-term loans and made affordable monthly payments on kitchen, living room, and bedroom furniture so their new families wouldn't have to eat and sleep on the floor.
Recently, those traditional BNPLs have morphed into something new. Younger consumers of electronics and other goods have flocked to BNPL smartphone apps offered by online lenders. Klarna, Afterpay, and Affirm all let you avoid paying the entire purchase price at once by making four interest-free payments over six weeks. The apps are easy to use, and qualifying only requires a "soft" credit check, which doesn't affect your credit rating.
Many hearing aid manufacturers and audiology practices now accept these forms of BNPL payments, which may be especially attractive for purchasers of lower-priced over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids. If you are able to put down 25% of the purchase price and pay off the rest over the next six weeks, you can avoid paying any interest.
Other ways to save money on hearing aids
As you consider financing options for your hearing aids, you will also want to seek out other ways to save money. You can get a significant tax break on your purchase of hearing aids with either a Health Savings Account (HSA) or a Flexible Spending Account (FSA). And additional savings are available if you are among the lucky few with a health insurance plan that covers part or even all of the cost of hearing aids.
You can purchase hearing aids with pre-tax income through HSA's and FSA's (Source: Shutterstock)
Health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts cover hearing aids
Federal tax laws allow you to set up accounts with pre-tax income to pay for medical expenses not covered by your health insurance plan, including hearing aids. Anyone with a high-deductible health insurance plan can set up an HSA and deposit up to $3,650 a year for medical expenses. FSAs, which are set up by employers and not individuals, work in a similar way, allowing employees to deposit up to $3,050 per year from their paychecks to use for health and medical expenses.
Money set aside in these accounts is not taxed, reducing your overall taxable income. This means that if you are in a 20% tax bracket and deposit $3,000 in your account, you will save $600 in taxes in the year you set aside that money—effectively lowering your medical costs by that amount. And if you don't use your entire annual set-aside on hearing aids, you can apply the funds to other costs such as dental, vision, medication, and many other out-of-pocket expenses.
There are differences between the two types of accounts. For example, you have to spend the entire sum in your FSA account each year because no roll-overs are allowed into the following year. In contrast, the HSA can accrue over time because you can roll over unused amounts from one year to the next. But to qualify for the HSA, you must have very high annual deductibles in your health insurance plan—$1,400 for an individual plan, and $2,800 for a family plan.
Some health insurance plans cover hearing aids
Many adults who start to suffer from progressive hearing loss discover that their health insurance plans do not cover hearing aids. Older consumers especially are disappointed that Medicare does not offer any coverage at all for hearing aids. But recently the number of private health insurance plans offering coverage has increased: a recent HearingTracker reader survey revealed that one in four Americans have access to some degree of financial savings through their medical insurers.
Those who do have coverage reported in our survey that insurers offering partial coverage pay an average of $1,226 to defray the cost of hearing aids. Therefore, checking with your insurance carrier about coverage for hearing aids is a must.
If you are a veteran with Veterans' Administration (VA) health insurance coverage, all the costs of your hearing care and hearing aids are covered. And if you live in one of the five states that mandate certain levels of coverage for hearing aids, you're also in luck. Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island required insurance reimbursement for hearing aids at levels ranging from $800 to $2,500 every few years.
Hearing aid financing: an idea whose time has come
What's the bottom line?
Where there's a will there's a way to pay for your hearing aids.
In the U.S., adults with hearing loss wait an average of more than seven years before acquiring hearing aids. Many reasons are commonly cited, including stigma and fear of looking old or infirm. But the most important reason is that many consumers don't see the value and simply cannot afford the high cost of quality hearing aids.
Unfortunately, as hearing loss progresses, suffering increases. Waiting too long for help can hurt your family and social relationships, not to mention your performance at work.
The scientific evidence is also pretty clear about hearing healthcare your general health: hearing loss is linked to greater risk factors for many physical and mental health problems, including depression, cognitive decline and dementia.
But if you look hard enough, you will find there are financing options and other ways of defraying the costs of hearing aids that can ease the pain in your pocketbook. You may not know it yet, but there's a good chance you actually do have the financial wherewithal to finally take the plunge.
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