This time last year, my ninety-something-year-old father and I were cutting a tree down at the lake. He normally likes to run the chainsaw while I pull on a rope tied high in the tree so that it will fall ‘where he intended it to fall’. Well, as the tree fell it hung in another tree so my father was down by the lake hollering, “Pull! Pull!” When I finally freed it, the tree began to fall towards him! He instinctively backed up, tripped and did a swan dive into the lake. Being the hero I am I dove in after him, got him up and out of the lake. He was laughing and having a merry old time. Then I noticed what at first appeared to be a fishing lure on the bottom of the lake until I pulled it out and realized it was his hearing aid! Hmmm…a $100 tree versus a $3,500 hearing aid. All of a sudden, hiring a professional to cut the tree sounded like a better use of financial resources.
What does this story have to do with personal finance? Another friend and hearing aid enthusiast pointed out to me the financial value of good hearing. It’s unfortunate that some people associate hearing aids with the elderly. It turns out that about 15% of Baby Boomers have hearing loss significant enough to benefit from the use of a hearing aid. Even about 7% of Genexers (ages 29-40) would benefit from a hearing aid. While there seems to still be a stigma around a ‘young’ person wearing a hearing aid, there shouldn’t be. Ignoring poor hearing can cost you big bucks. Research suggests that workers with poor hearing earn, on average, $1,000 to $12,000 less annually.
The good news is that hearing aid equipment has come a long way in recent years. Some hearing aids are so small as to be unnoticeable. Others come with remote controls so you can instantly adjust them to varying circumstances.
If you’ve noticed that you’re not always able to follow the conversation in meetings or you’re asking people to repeat themselves, do yourself (and everyone else) a favor and have a hearing test. If you have a ‘flex-plan benefit’ at work, you can use it to pay for the exam and the hearing aid. Employers may benefit the most from a workforce who hears well and may want to consider adding hearing tests as an employee benefit.
Unfortunately, Alabama is one of the few states that charges sales tax on the sale of hearing aids. The good news is that Alabama law does allow a buyer a 30-day period to try out a hearing aid and return it without obligation.
In addition to the financial benefits of hearing well, there are obviously social benefits. I’ve watched my mother struggle for decades as she tried to communicate with my father, who even with hearing aids is still hard of hearing. My father, who stills works in the insurance business and is forever the optimist, puts a positive spin on the problem, “Hey, I never hear the prospect say, ‘No’!”