Home > 2015 > Personal Finance

The Cost of Being Hearing-Impaired in America

Advertiser Disclosure Comments 2 Comments

I’m 29 and have worn hearing aids since I was a teenager. To me, my moderate-to-profound hearing loss feels like a very small part of my identity, but it’s one I’ve been thinking about more than usual, since my current pair of hearing aids has been acting up in the last couple of weeks.

A lot of people don’t know that hearing aids are covered by very few health insurance plans. I often hear, in response: shouldn’t they be covered similarly to eyeglasses? I completely agree — however, most American insurance companies do not share this belief. I tend to blame ageism on their part, and the assumption that while people of all ages can suffer from poor vision, only the elderly are afflicted with hearing loss. This is not only incorrect, but an all-around rough commentary on how senior quality of life is viewed.

Being a 20-something with hearing loss has meant many things to me and my everyday life, but the biggest concern for me since entering adulthood has been monetary. Much like most small, delicate electronics, hearing aids tend to have a shelf life of about five years. They get 16 hours of use every day and are exposed to the elements, so their inner workings tend to wear out after a while. The longest I’ve stretched a pair was nearly six years, until I couldn’t stand them abruptly dropping sound quality mid-conversation anymore.

The silver lining is, by the time I need a new pair, the field’s technology has improved by five years, meaning my current set is always my best yet.

Still, the ever-impending cost of a new set has been a large part of my personal finance planning. That doesn’t include the cost of batteries, and everything else that comes with the territory. I’m in the process getting the settings on my current set adjusted, and that added expense has had me thinking of what being hearing-impaired has meant for my finances.

Hearing aids: Every five years, I have to drop a couple grand on a new set. I like to tell people it’s like buying two tiny, expensive computers, except they’re way less fun than a MacBook and I need them in order to leave my apartment. With my last set, purchased in 2012, I got a discount through TruHearing, a savings program that partnered with my insurance company. This cut down on total costs, but I still had to pay nearly $2,000 out-of-pocket for my new set of Resound hearing aids. At least they came with a several months’ supply of batteries.

Hearing aid batteries: Speaking of batteries — they’re an ongoing cost. A good sale on size 13 batteries gets me a pack of 16 for $14 at a typical drugstore, but now I buy in bulk online. Last Christmas, one of the gifts my brother and sister-in-law gave me was several packs of my size batteries, and I was slightly embarrassed by how excited I was about it. I used to be bad about planning ahead for batteries, and in college I would often find myself paying more than I should in emergency situations, like when I was traveling and forgot to pack them. Batteries last about 10 days each with my current set, but lately they’ve been fading much faster — hence my current efforts toward getting them properly adjusted.

Adjustments: It can cost between $60 and $150 for an audiologist to change audio settings, clean devices, and change the tubing that connects the hardware to the custom molds made for my ears. I have to admit, I am not great about getting adjustments made, which is probably why mine are in somewhat dire shape right now. I prefer to change my own tubing and clean them with the basic kit they came with, but it’s never as good as when a professional does it. Usually adjustments are free, or at least discounted, with the place from which you buy your hearing aids — however, my guy shut down a year after I bought mine, and now I live in a different city.

Hearing tests/ear specialist appointments: Because I recently moved to a new state and had to find a new audiologist and a new ENT, I decided to do both in one fell swoop. Earlier this week I saw an ear specialist, but I had to get a hearing test done with the audiologist before I could see him. The hearing test (one per year) is covered by my current health insurance plan, but I found out it also calls for a $45 co-pay for seeing a specialist.

Accessories: Want to control your hearing aid volume with your phone? There’s an app for that. However, I’ve never been at a place where I felt I could splurge on any bluetooth accessories. Maybe by 2017, when I’m due for a new pair, I’ll be wildly rich and can afford a $200 wireless tool that connects my hearing aids to my TV and computer.

Aside from recent weeks, being hearing-impaired is not usually a huge obstacle for me. I’ve gotten good at lip reading and know basic ASL, and I can follow along just fine in conversations if people are on my better hearing side. As long as I can continue planning for the cost of being hard of hearing, I don’t plan on letting it impact my quality of life.

This story is an Op/Ed contribution and does not necessarily represent the views of Credit.com or its partners. This post originally appeared on TheBillfold.

More from TheBillfold:

Image: iStock

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

  • deafdeaf

    This term, hearing impairment, is not acceptable when referring to persons with a hearing loss. It should never be used in referring to persons with hearing loss. “Hearing impaired” is an outdated medical condition; it is not a collective noun for people who have varying degrees of hearing loss. It fails to recognize the differences between the Deaf, Deaf-Blind, Deafened and Hard of Hearing Communities. This label was created by hearing people to be politically correct, although we, the people with hearing loss, do not like this term because we do not feel that we are impaired in any way.

    It is wrong to say ” we are disabled ” Yes, we have a hearing loss and “yes” we do have have a disability (Hearing Loss ), but we are not disabled!

  • Daryn Plasticmask

    How about if we let the people with the issue, define THEMSELVES instead of correcting their terminology FOR A CHANGE?
    If he or she wants to call himself or herself hearing impaired THEY HAVE EVERY RIGHT.
    I’m sick of reading these posts from people who police the terms instead of reading the actual articles and the spirit of the stories.
    When I started losing my hearing, I had to put up with SO MUCH OF THIS that it made me stop posting on my blog because I was worried that I’d ‘offend’ some Deaf person.
    Well, a year later, I AM OVER IT.
    LEAVE US ALONE; if we want to be hearing impaired then LAY THE HELL OFF and SHUT UP about it.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team