Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
One day you’re proudly depositing your first paycheck and seemingly the next you’re ready to begin drawing Social Security. No worries. You’re planning for retirement—saving enough to pay for living expenses, medical expenses and a little fun, right? Is hearing health on your radar? It should be: If we’re lucky, we’ll live long enough to experience age-related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis. Treating hearing loss is important, but hearing aids can be expensive and are often an unexpected out-of-pocket expense for retirees. Planning now will help keep surprise bills at bay.
Why set aside money for hearing aids?
Few insurance programs cover hearing aids—even Medicare doesn’t! While you’re working, consider starting a pre-tax health savings account where you can begin banking pre-retirement dollars to help with healthcare costs. These accounts are available with your employers’ high deductible insurance plans. Talk to a financial planner or your workplace benefits advisor to find out if this option is a fit for your needs. You may not need hearing aids for several years—or at all. Still, it’s nice to know the money is there should your audiologist determine you could benefit from wearing them.
- How much should you save? The cost of hearing aids varies according to the severity of your hearing loss and your listening environments; however, plan to pay anywhere between $1,000 and $4,000 for each device. Yep, per ear.
- Why invest in hearing aids? You may find this hard to believe, but this investment could actually save you money in the long run. Studies indicate those with untreated hearing loss have medical bills as much as 33 percent higher than those without hearing loss. Hearing loss increases your risk of falls, social isolation and dementia.
Protect your hearing now
But what are we doing in the meantime to make sure that we’re hearing our best once we leave the workforce? Here are a few suggestions;
- Protect against noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), as many as 40 million American adults have hearing loss attributed to excessive exposure to noise. Sounds over 85 decibels (dB) are particularly harmful, especially if you’re exposed to them for more than 8 hours a day. If you enjoy a noisy hobby, such as hunting or motorcycle riding, wear appropriate hearing protection. Turn down the volume on your electronic devices, most especially anything you listen to through earphones. Limit your exposure to noisy environments—sports stadiums, concerts— and be intentional about moving away from loud noise you encounter accidentally.
- Find a hearing healthcare professional and get a baseline hearing evaluation. If you don’t have a relationship with a hearing healthcare professional, now is the perfect time to establish one. Visit our directory of hearing centers and read through the verified consumer reviews of those located in your community. Then choose one and make an appointment. Hearing evaluations are quick, easy and painless. The results will tell your provider how well you’re hearing now and provide the baseline they need to monitor changes in your hearing.
- Know your family’s hearing health history. While some forms of hearing loss can be explained by noise and age-related conditions, others like otosclerosis, Usher’s Syndrome and Pendred Syndrome are hereditary. Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL), the most common type of hearing loss, isn’t hereditary; however, if other family members have been diagnosed with SNHL it’s best to share this information with your hearing care professional, too. The more your clinician knows about your family’s hearing health, the better prepared they will be if you develop similar symptoms.
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle now. Why wait until the New Year to make these resolutions? Begin now. Not only will you have a head start on next year, your hearing health will benefit. Why? Because the health of your inner ear is directly related to the health of your circulatory system. Anything that interferes with your circulation—such as heart disease, smoking or obesity—can damage or kill the sensory hair cells in the cochlea. These hair cells are responsible for translating the noise your outer ear collects into electrical impulses for the brain to interpret as the daily sounds you recognize.
Be proactive: Why hearing matters
Protecting your hearing health now will most definitely pay you dividends in retirement. And, should you develop hearing loss, resolve to treat it sooner rather than later. Those who wait increase their risks of developing other medical issues such as:
- Injury – Untreated hearing loss puts you at greater risk for accidental injury. Studies have also found that those with untreated hearing loss are three times more likely to experience tripping and falling.
- Increase risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s – Untreated hearing loss is one of the nine risk factors associated with developing dementia.
- Poor emotional health – Untreated hearing loss takes a toll on your psychological health, too, and increases your risk of depression.
Hopefully, you have a lot of fun things planned for retirement. Include a few hearing health and savings strategies before it’s too late to make sure you’re hearing your best through it all.