Holland Column

Retirement & Financial Planning

Holland Financial

What You’re Not Hearing Could Hurt You, Financially

Unfortunately, many people who need hearing aids refrain from buying them. Why? Some people are reluctant to face the fact that they are hearing impaired. Other people are concerned with the cost. Either way, not being able to hear well can lead to irritable exchanges with your loved ones, less social interaction (including feelings of isolation and depression), and even financial problems. Financial problems, you might ask? Well, as an adviser, I spend much of my time meeting with clients, many of whom are retirees. Yes, I do use various visual aids to supplement my analyses and recommendations, but it is very important that my clients clearly hear what I am presenting. Misunderstandings can occur in a variety of situations, if someone only hears parts of a conversation and is too embarrassed to ask another person to repeat himself/herself. (Don’t worry about that with me, though; I want my clients to fully understand everything discussed in our meetings, and to that end, I’ll happily repeat myself as many times as it takes! And, my wife tells me I do that at home, too!)

Even those with substantial assets sometimes refrain from buying an auditory device. Hearing aids can be expensive, and unfortunately, most insurance policies, including Medicare, won’t pay for them. The bigger problem, though, is what are you missing? Bank transactions, doctors’ appointments, even driving, require a person to hear well to make the right decisions.

Is there a solution? Well, I’m not an Ear Nose and Throat Specialist (ENT) or audiologist, and I don’t play one on TV (I’m sorry, have I used that joke one too many times?), but here is an option. If cost is your major concern, you might consider buying a hearing aid “direct-to-the-consumer” online. Some sites even provide hearing tests, or you can send the one performed in your ENT’s office. Now, granted, you may still need to go to a local hearing professional for a fitting, but by effectively “unbundling” the hearing aid from the service, you may be able to save several hundred dollars, if not more.

Another option, especially for those experiencing mild hearing impairment, is a personal sound amplification product (PSAP). PSAPs are not approved as medical devices by the FDA, but if all you need is a moderate amplification of sound, these can be ordered online for a fraction of the price of a hearing aid.

In summary, if you are starting to notice that you are saying “what?” or “huh?” each time your husband, wife, co-worker, friend or adviser talks to you, don’t fear a diagnosis of hearing impairment. It doesn’t necessarily mean you will need hearing aids. I encourage you to get tested, talk candidly with your ENT and audiologist, and then do your own research. Your home life, social life and financial life may reap the benefits of your clearer hearing! The source for some of the helpful information used for this article was the aarp.org website.

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