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A Guide to Paying for Hearing Aids

Numerous options exist for paying for hearing aids, including financing, private insurance, the VA and government programs, charity assistance, and strategies for reducing costs. Here's an overview of all your options with helpful links to get you started.
Photo of hearing aids and a $20 bill

The average set of hearing aids costs around $4,700, but there are many different ways to cut costs and get help in obtaining the devices you need.

Searching for alternatives and options to fund a hearing aid purchase? You’ve come to the right place. This guide explores various ways that help make hearing aids more attainable for adults with hearing loss. Continue reading to discover everything you need to know in order to navigate the financial aspects of paying for hearing aids with confidence and ease.

You're not alone!

Approximately 28.8 million adults in the US could benefit from hearing aids, as reported by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Untreated hearing loss has been associated with various health issues, including depression, cognitive decline, and a range of chronic illnesses including dementia. The good news is that hearing aids can improve communication, safety, quality of life, cognitive function, and emotional well-being. Yet, despite the prevalence of hearing loss, a mere 16% of people between the ages of 20 and 69 who need hearing aids use them.

One factor preventing people from purchasing hearing aids is their cost. With the average price of hearing aids around $2,000 per device, buying a hearing aid is not only an important decision concerning your hearing health but also a significant financial commitment.

If you are concerned about the financial implications of purchasing hearing aids, remember that the role of your hearing care provider is to support you in your hearing care needs—they want to help you determine your best option. Don't let the price tag of hearing aids prevent you from getting the hearing assistance you need. Instead, plan and research in advance so you are prepared to have a constructive discussion with your hearing care provider about your options and address any questions or concerns you have. A little preparation can go a long way in helping you make an informed decision.

We'll now go into various methods for getting help in paying for your hearing aids, followed by some strategies for reducing the cost of a hearing aid purchase.

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Why do hearing aids cost so much?

According to a HearingTracker reader survey the average price of a pair of prescription hearing aids is $4,672. With modern hearing aids having a lifespan of 3-7 years, when purchasing hearing aids, you also need to take into account the “hidden” costs of hearing aid upkeep. The costs of buying hearing aid batteries (if your device is not rechargeable), staying on top of hearing aid cleaning and maintenance, tunings, accessories, and repairs all add up, and there’s no hiding the fact that hearing aids are expensive.

Various factors contribute to the cost of hearing aids, including:

  • R & D expenditure: Manufacturers spend millions of dollars on research and development each year to create hearing aids that are smaller, more powerful, and perform better.
  • Lower sales volumes: Hearing aids have far fewer sales than consumer electronics such as smartphones and consumer audio products. For example, in 2022, there were about 1.39 billion smartphones sold compared to about 20 million hearing aids sold globally (a ratio of about 70 to 1).
  • Trial periods and returns: The FDA classifies hearing aids as medical devices, so in most cases, manufacturers cannot resell returned devices or reuse their parts. Historically, about 15-20% of prescription hearing aids are returned for credit (due to poor fit, insufficient volume/gain, opting for a different device, etc.), with even higher percentages for OTC aids, and this substantially increases costs.
  • Professional services: By far, the largest price markup in hearing aids comes from hearing providers, who, like dentists and other health-related professions, need to pay for the advanced testing/fitting equipment, salaries of professional and support personnel, overhead, marketing, etc., to keep their doors open.

Hearing clinics often bundle device costs with professional care, covering exams, fitting, maintenance, and future appointments all in one payment. Traditionally, the markup has been 2 to 3 times the wholesale cost of the devices. Some clinics unbundle costs, allowing separate payments for hearing aids, fitting, and follow-up care, offering more transparency. Both billing methods have their pros and cons. Ultimately, the decision to choose bundled or un-bundled care comes down to your personal needs, preferences, and budget.

The good news is that, for at least a decade, hearing aid prices have been trending downward by 1-2% per year when adjusted for inflation. It's still unclear if OTC hearing aids will have any effect on prescriptive hearing aid prices.

Best strategies for funding your hearing aid purchase

There are many ways to lessen the financial burden of paying for hearing aids. Below, we provide an overview of the most popular and safest methods. We follow this up with other cost-cutting strategies. Be sure to check out the in-depth pages and external links in the "Learn More At..." sections below.

1) Health insurance and hearing aids

Requirements for hearing aid coverage differ between states, with only the following six states mandating insurance coverage for adults.

State Mandated coverage
Arkansas $1,400 per hearing aid every 3 years
Connecticut $1,000 every 2 years
Illinois $2,500 per hearing aid every 2 years
New Hampshire $1,500 per hearing aid every 5 years
Rhode Island $700 per hearing aid every 3 years
Washington $3,000 per hearing aid every 3 years

Although about 20 states mandate insurance coverage for children, only six states currently mandate coverage for adults.

Insurance coverage for hearing aids does exist and is an increasingly popular feature of managed care and Medicare Advantage programs. HearingTracker research found that the average amount covered by insurance for hearing aids is around $1,000 per device, so it’s worth doing your homework to discover your options.

However, not all insurance plans are created equal; different plans have different coverage amounts, and many offer no assistance. Further, in some instances, insurance companies' reimbursement rates have become so low or problematic that some hearing care clinics won't work with them, and at least one major manufacturer (Oticon) feels they can no longer offer their flagship brand under managed care contracts (see Dr. Cliff Olson's video about this issue).

Hearing Aids Insurance

Hearing aids are increasingly covered under commercial and Medicare Advantage insurance.

According to ValuePenguin, the vast majority of Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans now cover hearing aids and exams. However, people with these plans still pay 79% of the hearing aid costs or an average of about $1,820 per aid out of pocket.

Before we get further into private insurance, you should be aware of some basics:

  • Original Medicare (Parts A and B) excludes hearing aids, but Medicare Advantage plans (Part C) may cover them.
  • Medicaid programs vary by state and offer hearing aid services to eligible adults, usually low-income individuals and families.
  • Children's hearing aids are covered by Medicaid in every state through the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) program.
  • The VA and TRICARE covers eligible veterans and active-duty service members (detailed below).
  • Prescription and some OTC hearing aids can be paid using a Health Savings Account (HSA) or a Flexible Spending Account (FSA).
  • Workers' Compensation covers work-related injuries, potentially including hearing aids, with no out-of-pocket expenses depending on the plan.

Commercial or private insurance may cover hearing aids with deductibles, cost-sharing, and coverage limits, with preferred provider organization (PPO) plans offering out-of-network benefits.

Each plan has its own terms and conditions, so you should review the policy details or contact your insurance provider for specific information. Before contacting your insurance provider about hearing aid coverage, make sure you have your plan details ready, including your policy number or health plan ID and your member ID. Be sure to ask about coverage criteria, available models, and payment options.

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Hearing Aid Fitting

Financing hearing aids through a third party can help you pay for a comprehensive hearing evaluation, hearing aids, accessories, and other items that may not be covered by insurance.

2) Financing: Buy now, pay later options

Financing options can help make hearing aids more affordable by allowing for more manageable monthly payments. There are several ways to borrow money for a hearing aid purchase.

A healthcare credit card like CareCredit can enable you to pay for hearing aids and other health-related products not covered by your medical insurance, ranging from a general hearing exam and hearing aids to cochlear implants. CareCredit offers zero or low-interest financing options of up to 24 months on purchases of $200 or more. It also extends financing at interest rates lower than standard credit cards for longer-term loans up to 60 months. Those deals can amount to substantial savings. The credit card can also be used for dental, vision, chiropractic, cosmetic, animal/pet care, and other services at 250,000 locations nationwide.

Similar financing companies include All Well/Allegro Credit, Ally, and PayPal Credit. But here's the catch: reputable financing companies like CareCredit are 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 these payments on time every month, you will be hit with an additional bill for the total interest dating from the original purchase.

Some hearing care offices don't offer third-party financing because finance companies typically charge them a small percentage (e.g., 1-3%) of the purchase price. But, in general, we think third-party financing is a good deal, as it can help you get the hearing aids and services you want and need without waiting. Again, this only holds true if you make on-time payments to avoid any added interest.

Although it's becoming rare due to financial regulations and legal concerns, some hearing care practices may offer their own extended payment or leasing plans. While these plans can also be good deals, make sure you understand the terms, get the agreement in writing, and read any fine print. There are also a variety of subscription hearing aids that can help alleviate the sting of one large payment.

You could also consider taking out a standard credit card from your bank, which allows you to pay off your hearing aid purchase over time. If you have a good credit rating, you may be offered an initial low or no-interest period. Some banks also offer credit cards specifically to cover health costs.

Although financing options and payment plans for purchasing hearing aids allow you to pay off purchases over time, they can also have drawbacks. Standard credit cards often charge high rates, so it’s best to pay off your purchase as soon as possible or you'll pay much more for the devices in the long run. Also, qualifying for a personal loan may require a good credit score, and the application may be time-consuming. When researching your options, keep in mind your financial situation and carefully consider the terms and conditions of each option before making a decision.

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Veteran Saluting

For anyone who has served or is serving in the armed forces, the VA should be the first stop for checking into hearing aids.

3) The VA and hearing aids

Hearing loss and tinnitus are consistently the top two service-connected disabilities (SCD) among veterans. The first stop for any veteran or immediate family member should be the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Veterans enrolled in VA healthcare qualify for hearing tests and clinically-justified hearing aids.

The VA maintains over 400 medical centers, outpatient clinics (OPCs), and community-based outpatient clinics (CBOCs) and is the world's largest employer of audiologists. The Retiree-At-Cost Hearing Aid Program (RACHAP), established in the late 1980s, has also allowed veterans to purchase hearing aids in select military audiology clinics at a reduced government-negotiated cost via TRICARE.

To obtain VA healthcare, veterans first need to apply for eligibility. This is usually done using the VA’s Form 10-10EZ, but it’s sometimes easier just to contact your nearest VA center for assistance and direction. If you’re a veteran and already registered with the VA and receiving healthcare services, you can make an appointment directly with a VA audiologist to determine your hearing status and the need for a hearing aid.

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Dept Of Health And Human Services Hhs Washington

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) headquarters in Washington, DC. One of the best places to find available government aid is with your own state's HHS website.

4) Other government programs providing hearing aids and assistive devices

Several federal and state programs provide funding or hearing aids to eligible individuals, including veterans, children, and those on a low-income. Many states have a “Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division” or “Commission” as an extension of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). If you type your state and these words into a search engine, you're likely to find a list of resources and contacts specific to your region.

Other programs to check into include:

  • People whose income exceeds Medicaid eligibility requirements may qualify for help with medical costs, including hearing aids, through the “medically needy program.”
  • State Vocational Rehabilitation Programs are state-run programs that may help individuals with disabilities get hearing aids to support them in gaining or maintaining employment.
  • If you have a verifiable hearing loss (certified by a hearing professional), you may be eligible to receive a captioned telephone at no charge from select providers paid from a federal fund administered by the FCC.
  • The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is a labor union that offers a hearing care program to its members and their families. Benefits include a free hearing exam and discount on reputable brands of hearing aids.
  • Some states require insurance companies to pay for hearing aids for children. For children living in states that aren’t covered, they may be able to receive assistive technology free of charge if their Individualized Education Program (IEP) specifies they need assistive technology to get a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). For more information, see the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  • The Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides low-cost or free health coverage to eligible children in families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid, which sometimes includes hearing aids.

As always, be sure to check eligibility and benefits for these programs as they vary by location and situation.

Another option for saving money on hearing aids is to take advantage of a Health Savings Account (HSA) or a Flexible Spending Account (FSA). These types of accounts are specifically for paying medical expenses not covered by your health insurance plan, including hearing aids, and are set up using pre-tax earnings. Money in an FSA or HSA is not taxed, which reduces taxable income.

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5) Charitable organizations and non-profit assistance for obtaining hearing aids

If you don’t have access to insurance coverage to help buy hearing aids, numerous organizations can help. For example:

  • Help America Hear is a not-for-profit charitable organization that provides free high-quality hearing aids through an application process to qualified individuals with restricted financial means.
  • Easter Seals has various local service centers that offer a range of services for people with hearing loss, including assisting low-income individuals with hearing loss in obtaining hearing aids.
  • Members of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) get a number of benefits, such as discounted hearing aids through the hearing aid network IDEAL. HLAA membership starts at $45 per person.
  • The Miracle-Ear Foundation’s Gift of Sound program provides free hearing aids and hearing healthcare services to eligible individuals who have significantly low incomes.
  • Local chapters of Lions Club International have been helping people with reconditioned hearing aids and glasses for nearly a century.
  • The National Hearing Aid Project, created by Hearing Charities of America (HCOA), provides hearing aids to low-income individuals.
  • The Travelers Protective Association (TPA) Hearing Trust provides financial aid to eligible US individuals, regardless of age or degree of hearing loss, to cover expenses, such as devices and medical treatment, based solely on financial need.
  • AARP Hearing Solutions allows members to save up to 20% on hearing aids and extended warranties. The program is available to all AARP members, and membership begins at $12 annually.

Additionally, local chapters that sometimes offer help to people in need of hearing aids include: Kiwanis Club, Eagles Club, Elks Club, Knights of Columbus, Masonic organizations, Sertoma, and more.

Numerous “hearing aid loaner” programs in the US collect donated hearing aids, refurbish them, and distribute them to those in need, often prioritizing children. These programs are usually run by non-profit organizations, community groups, or hearing healthcare professionals. Get in touch with your local early hearing detection & intervention (EHDI) program to see if there are loaner banks in your area. You may also find an organization in your state that operates a loaner bank by typing “[your state] hearing aid loaner bank program" into Google or another search engine.

Starkey Cares Washington Heights Ny

Numerous organizations like the Starkey Hearing Foundation also provide hearing aids in the United States and abroad.

Further afield, there are international resources for those living outside of the US. For example, in Europe, the European Federation of Hard of Hearing People (EFHOH) works to help individuals access affordable hearing care, including hearing aids. In Australia, the Government Hearing Service Program provides eligible individuals with free or subsidized hearing assessments and hearing aids. Likewise, various government programs across Canadian provinces offer financial support for hearing aids, such as the Ontario Ministry of Health’s Assistive Devices Program (ADP).

In the US, eligibility criteria and application processes for financial assistance or discounted hearing aids vary among programs and organizations. When applying for financial support, be sure to check the eligibility requirements on the relevant website. Gather any necessary documents that could support your application, such as medical records and proof of income. If you are struggling to navigate the application process, try seeking assistance from the organization providing the support program, who will be able to talk you through the process.

Also, consider reaching out to audiologists or hearing aid providers in your area to inquire about financial assistance programs they may offer, recommend, or be affiliated with.

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Other cost-cutting strategies

There are a lot of other ways to cut the costs of hearing aids. For better or worse, here are some of them.

OTC hearing aids

If you're an adult with mild to moderate hearing loss and are looking for a more affordable hearing device, you may benefit from an over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aid. Although we always recommend getting a comprehensive hearing exam from an audiologist, you can get a good idea of your hearing status by using an online hearing screening tool. If you're in the appropriate mild-to-moderate hearing loss range, it's possible to purchase an OTC hearing aid for between $300 to $1,500+. But keep in mind that starting at around $1,500, you can buy professionally fit prescriptive hearing aids from big box stores (see below) and basic-technology aids from many private practice clinics.

Otc Aids

OTC hearing aids now come in many different shapes and forms, as well as brands that include (clockwise from upper left) Sony, Eargo, Jabra, SoundWave, HP, and Lexie Bose.

And we won't sugarcoat it: Prescriptive hearing aids and individualized care from a professional are still clearly the “gold standard.” As long as the professional adheres to best practices like real-ear measurements, they can fine-tune a hearing aid with the precision that a self-fitting OTC hearing aid is unlikely to achieve.

Although they're generally more convenient and significantly less expensive, OTC devices offer limited quality assurances and protections compared to prescription hearing aids. Additionally, you should know that any hearing aid—whether prescription fit or OTC—usually needs maintenance and servicing after a year or two, so this also should figure into your buying considerations and price calculations.

Having said all this, HearingTracker is generally bullish on OTC hearing aids. Increasingly, there are good options that can definitely help people who do not have more complex or severe types of hearing loss. For example, the independent HearAdvisor lab awarded six OTC hearing aids its 2023 Expert Choice Award.

OTC hearing aids are also starting to find their way into some insurance policies (which makes sense since insurers seem to be willing to do almost anything to save a buck!). So, even if you decide on an OTC hearing aid, you should still check your policy or contact your insurance provider to see if there's coverage. You can also check into paying for them via an HSA/FSA account.

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Insist on an older or more basic hearing aid model

Most newer flagship hearing aid models from the best global manufacturers come in 2-4 technology levels, and older models are usually still available, too. If you insist on buying a lower-technology or older model, you won't get all the bells and whistles of the latest flagship brand, but you will probably save $500-$1,000+ and still get very good hearing aids! One landmark study found that high-end devices did not outperform basic-level devices on most measures; however, what the researchers' results made crystal clear was that a quality hearing aid fit by a skilled, dedicated professional who uses best practices (like real-ear measurement) achieved exceptional results for the vast majority of people with hearing loss.

It's true that higher-tech hearing aids offer hearing providers more fitting tools and users more advanced features for hearing in noise, audio streaming, rechargeability, etc. But a basic-level hearing aid, if fitted properly, should help you hear better and save you money. In many cases, you can get them from a private practice for $1,500 to $3,000 per pair—which is on par with big-box retailers.

Big-box retailers

Costco's Hearing Aid Centers and Sam's Club Lucid Hearing Centers are affordable alternatives to local clinics, with state-licensed hearing aid specialists or audiologists providing services. Both Costco and Sam's Club include free hearing tests, a selection of hearing aid technologies and styles, in-person fittings, and free follow-up appointments, cleanings, and programming adjustments for the lifetime of your hearing aids. Although each offers hearing aids starting at around $1,500, the key difference is that Costco offers hearing aids from several global brands while Sam's Club offers hearing aids from only one U.S. manufacturer (Lucid Hearing).

Costco Ks 1200x675

Costco hearing aid center.

Costco and Sam's Club provide affordable, professionally fitted prescription hearing aids. However, they are probably not the best option for people with more complicated or severe hearing loss, other medical problems, bothersome tinnitus, or people who need more individualized care. In general, they do not accept insurance.

Refurbishing your existing hearing aids

Do you already have hearing aids and are considering an upgrade or buying another set? Most prescription hearing aids purchased from a clinic (not online) come with a 2 or 3-year warranty. That's why it can be a good idea to ask your hearing provider about an “end-of-warranty refurbishment” before that warranty expires.

With a manufacturer refurbishment, your hearing provider sends the hearing aids back to the OEM for updating and replacement of key components, like receivers, microphones, and rechargeable batteries. The hearing aids should come back functioning like they're brand new. By doing this, you may effectively extend the life of your hearing aids from the usual 3-5 years to about 6-10 years. This is a good deal, particularly if you really like and are satisfied with the performance of your current hearing aids.

The downsides? There's usually a cost involved, and you may be without your aids for a short period. If the devices are outside of the warranty period, your provider will have to charge you more, and they may be unable to refurbish the aids if the devices are too old. Also, refurbishment means not keeping up with the "state-of-the-art" technology that you'd receive with next-generation hearing aids.

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Buying second-hand and refurbished hearing aids

Now we get into some murkier waters. While we do not recommend this route, it is possible to buy second-hand and refurbished hearing aids. You can buy them from online companies that specialize in refurbished hearing aids or embark on a far riskier path to get them from eBay or other online marketplaces. We strongly advise against the latter for many reasons, including they may be stolen! However, the overall costs of purchasing refurbished hearing aids are substantially lower than buying new ones...

Maybe. That's because you will need to pay for any relevant hearing tests, the hearing aid fitting, and reprogramming—plus find a professional who is willing to work with you on the second-hand hearing aids. Also, consider that the hearing clinic will need to have the appropriate software to reprogram the aids: if the devices are too outdated or if the software is "locked," they will not be able to help you. In most cases, you'll have no trial period and no recourse if they don't work.

Screenshot of hearing aids on eBay

Screenshot from eBay. Thousands of second-hand hearing aids are available from online marketplaces, but this is a very risky way to purchase hearing devices with a lot of perils.

There are several other important factors to consider before purchasing refurbished hearing aids. The most obvious one is that it's difficult to know if a particular hearing aid is suitable for your hearing loss. Additionally, you won't have a manufacturer's warranty unless you obtain the device through a third party that offers one. As noted earlier, hearing aids break, and an older hearing aid is more likely to malfunction even if it has been carefully checked for defects.

Custom in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids are made specifically to fit a person’s ear canal, so if buying used, you will need to have the shell remade to fit your ear. This, however, may not be cost-effective, and you are probably better off buying a new device. When purchasing a used behind-the-ear (BTE) or receiver-in-canal (RIC) hearing aid, you will need to buy new eardomes or earmolds and have the device reprogrammed by a hearing care professional to suit your hearing needs.

In general, these are all risky propositions. Buyer beware!

Have you ever thought about advocating for hearing aid coverage? Though this might seem daunting, the insights from hearing aid users or those who need hearing aids can assist governments in shaping both state and federal legislation. For example, you might advocate for expanding Medicare/Medicaid and insurance coverage for hearing aids both locally and nationally, or promote improved access to affordable hearing aids for all who need them. Alternatively, you may simply choose to raise awareness of the impact of untreated hearing loss on everyday life.

When beginning your advocacy efforts, it’s important to first become familiar with policies, legislation, and funding systems. Try connecting with advocacy groups and hearing healthcare providers to strengthen your cause. Social media is a good place to get started making these connections. For some inspiration, check out the Living With Hearing Loss website to learn about the impactful work of passionate hearing health advocate Shari Eberts. Also, consider attending public events around hearing aid coverage, or get involved in World Hearing Day, a global advocacy event for raising awareness of hearing loss and promoting ear and hearing care sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Several organizations can help you in your advocacy efforts. For example, the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) and the American Tinnitus Association (ATA) help promote awareness and support for people with hearing loss and tinnitus. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) advocates for people with communication disorders, offering resources and tools. Additionally, the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) works to ensure equal access for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Gn New Norm Jacob Kulick W Hearing Aids

Hearing well is extremely important for your communication, socialization, career, and well-being, and your hearing needs are as individual as you are. There are many financial alternatives to achieve better hearing, so don't give up on getting the hearing care and amplification you need.

Overcoming financial challenges to get the hearing help you need

Navigating the financial side of purchasing hearing aids can be challenging. Yet, despite the significant costs associated with hearing aids, there are numerous funding options and cost-cutting strategies to make them more affordable. Exploring insurance coverage and taking advantage of government programs can help ease the financial burden. Additionally, financing options, charitable organizations, and lower-technology devices offer alternative ways of obtaining affordable hearing aids. If, at first you don’t succeed, try another avenue!

Remember, taking care of your hearing health is essential for maintaining overall well-being and quality of life, and a good-quality hearing aid can help you tremendously in remaining connected to the world around you.

Carly

Hearing Health Writer

Carly Sygrove is a hearing loss coach and a hearing health writer who has single-sided deafness. She writes about living with hearing loss at My Hearing Loss Story and manages an online support group for people with hearing loss. She is also the founder of the Sudden Hearing Loss Support website, a source of information and support for people affected by sudden hearing loss.