What would the Hearing Aid Assistance Tax Credit Act do?
Provide a non-refundable $500 tax credit for the purchase of a hearing aid, or $1,000 if two are needed, once every five years. The House bill includes a $200,000/year income eligibility cap.
Why is this special tax treatment needed for hearing aids?
While 95% of individuals with hearing loss could be successfully treated with hearing aids, only about 25% of the 36 million Americans with hearing loss (8.4 million people) used them in 2008 according to the ‘MarkeTrak’ report, the largest national consumer survey on hearing loss.
Hearing aids are not covered under Medicare, or under the vast majority of state mandated benefits. In fact, 61% of hearing aid purchases involve no third party payment according to the MarkeTrak report. This places the entire burden of the purchase on the consumer.
33% of individuals with hearing loss have incomes of less than $30,000 per year according to the Better Hearing Institute, and household incomes of individuals with untreated hearing loss are usually much lower than their non hearing impaired counterparts.
68% of those with hearing loss cite financial constraints as a core reason they do not use hearing aids.
The average cost for a hearing aid in 2008 was $1,675 including fitting, evaluation and post-fitting treatment, according to MarkeTrak. Nearly 80% of individuals with hearing loss required two devices in 2008, increasing average out of pocket expenses to $3,350.
What is the extent of the problem with hearing loss in the U.S.?
Hearing loss is among the most prevalent birth defects in America, affecting 3 infants per 1,000 births. 1.2 million children under 18 have a hearing loss.
For adults, hearing loss usually occurs gradually, but increases dramatically with age. 10 million older Americans have age-related hearing loss.
What is the cost impact of untreated hearing loss?
Children who do not receive early intervention cost schools an additional $420,000 and are faced with overall lifetime costs of $1 million in special education, lost wages, and health complications, according to a 1995 study published in the “International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology.” The Department of Education indicates that over 70,000 students, ages 6-21, received special education services in 2002 alone, due to their hearing loss.
For workers, noise induced hearing loss is the most common occupational disease and the second most self-reported occupational injury.
For taxpayers, a 2010 survey by the Better Hearing Institute on “The Impact of Untreated Hearing Loss on Household Income” compared income levels of people who used hearing aids, people with untreated hearing loss and people with no hearing loss. The data shows that untreated hearing loss results in a loss of income per household of up to $30,000 per year depending on the degree of hearing loss. This translates to $176 billion in unrealized income and a cost to society of $26 billion annually in unrealized federal income taxes (15% bracket).
For seniors, untreated hearing loss causes additional costs to Medicare and other health programs due to loss of independence, social isolation, depression, safety issues, and quality of life. The Senate Special Committee on Aging, in S. Rpt. 107-74, noted: ‘As the wave of seniors begins to experience age-related disability, our current long term care system will not be able to support this demographic shift.’ Hearing aids help enable seniors to retain their independence and avoid other long-term care costs.
In 1999, the National Council on the Aging (NCOA) conducted the largest known study on the effects of untreated hearing loss among adults and their families. The study quantified both the negative results of untreated hearing loss and the positive impact of hearing instruments on an individual’s quality of life. It found that impaired hearing results in distorted communication, isolation, withdrawal, reduced sensory input, depression, anger, and severely reduced overall psychological health. Conversely, hearing aid usage results in:
Increased earnings power, of around 50%;
Enhanced emotional and mental stability and reduced anger, anxiety, depression and paranoia;
Reduced social phobias and improved interpersonal relationships.
A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2013 suggests that hearing loss among older adults appears to be associated with a 32-41% faster rate of measurable cognitive decline than in people without hearing loss.
Numerous studies have linked untreated hearing loss to other serious conditions which are significant issues for people, especially older Americans who rely on Medicare and who are more likely to have hearing loss. Approximately one third of people between 65 and 74 and nearly half of those over 75 have hearing loss. It has been demonstrated that the symptoms of depression are reduced, and quality of life improved for people with hearing loss who use hearing aids. In addition, research has indicated that dementia risk may be up to five times greater for people who do not address their hearing loss. Also, untreated hearing loss is connected to a tripling of the risk for falling, which is of special concern to older Americans.
Who supports this legislation?
In an unprecedented fashion, the hearing health community has rallied behind this bill; include major organizations of people with hearing loss, parents of children with hearing loss, hearing healthcare providers, educators, and manufacturers. Endorsing groups include AARP, Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Academy of Doctors of Audiology, American Academy of Audiology, American Speech Language Hearing Association, Hearing Health Foundation, Hearing Industries Association, Hearing Loss Association of America, Hearing Network Alliance and the International Hearing Society.