“To my friends at Memphis Hearing Aid: I have worn hearing aids for 30+ years. You are the most accommodating, the most user-friendly provider in all those years. Your prices really impress me, since agents can charge what the market will bear. Thanks!”
(daughter of L. Floy Gates pictured below)
L. Floy Gates
Can You Hear Me Now? From Susan W.
In the past few days I’ve discovered that grocery stores play music, my van is making some funny noises, and my kids are really loud. The last one I knew…I just didn’t realize how loud. You see, last Thursday I got a pair of hearing aids, and I feel like a whole new world has opened up to me.
I’ve had hearing loss for as long as I can remember. I had it as a child, and it has gotten progressively worse. I am not alone. According to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, approximately 17 percent (36 million) of American adults report some degree of hearing loss. It is estimated that untreated hearing impairments cost the U.S. economy $56 billion in lost productivity, special education and medical care—an annual per capita tax of $216.
While I do not totally understand the above statistic, I do understand what having a hearing impairment has cost me. It’s cost many moments of frustration, withdrawal from certain social situations and even ministry opportunities, and the ability to relax and enjoy conversations. I could hear that people were talking, I just had to work really hard sometimes to understand what they were saying.
Although I knew I would most likely benefit from hearing aids, getting them was something I did not seriously consider until recently. I am not alone there either. Four out of five Americans with hearing loss do not use hearing aids. In a study by the National Council on the Aging to examine barriers to wearing hearing aids, those surveyed cited cost, vanity, and the stigma of wearing a hearing aid. The most common reasons cited, however, were “I can get along without one” and “they will not help with my specific problem.”
And those were my reasons too. I could quickly get over the vanity aspect because with my hairstyle, I knew that they would not even be seen. But I had gotten along “fine” so far without them, and I wondered if they would really even help that much. The greatest factor that held me back, however, was the cost. Hearing aids are expensive, about $1,500 to $2,000 each, and since God gave us two ears, we’re talking between $3,000 and $4,000. If you are fortunate to have health insurance, most plans do not cover these costs.
So, how did I end up in the offices of Memphis Hearing Aid and Audiological Services last Tuesday to have my hearing tested and pick out the hearing aids that would best suit my needs and lifestyle? It was actually the result of an answer to prayer.
In the last couple of years, I have gotten more and more frustrated by not being able to hear well. I think my family has gotten a little frustrated as well. I began praying that God would provide a way for me to get hearing aids. Then, out of the blue, my mom, who herself has hearing loss but wears hearing aids, offered to help us pay for them. She knew what I was missing out on, understood my frustration, and was confident that hearing aids would help.
A few weeks later, another amazing thing happened. When we reviewed my husband’s employee benefits for 2012, we saw that they had added hearing aid reimbursement for employees, spouses, and dependents. They would cover 80 percent of the cost. I was floored and could not wait to make an appointment.
Since I’ve gotten my hearing aids, I’ve been able to enjoy conversations and hear sounds I’ve never heard before. I’ve watched a movie with my family without having to use the subtitles or close captioning. I can hear my kids fighting from any room of the house. I can hear them being sweet too.
Being able to hear everything was a little overwhelming at first, but after some fine-tuning to the hearing aids by my audiologist, I am adjusting and absolutely loving it. I am so thankful for the financial assistance my mom and husband’s employer have provided, but knowing what I now know, I would save to pay every penny of it myself if I had to.
One reason I wanted to share my story is that someone reading it may have hearing loss and wonder if a hearing aid will really make a difference. Of course only a licensed audiologist can answer that for each individual, but if they did recommend hearing aids, I would definitely check it out (most places allow you to try them for 30 days with no obligation). I only regret that I didn’t do it sooner.
The other reason I wanted to share is that many of you probably know someone who has hearing loss but cannot afford the cost of hearing aids. Quite possibly, it is someone you love or someone who works with or for you. If you are financially able, I would encourage you to offer to help them with the cost. If you own a business, consider adding hearing aid reimbursement to your benefits, or petition your employer to add this benefit. I know that if I had a job, (outside of my full-time wife/mom/freelance writing gig) I would be a much more effective and productive employee due to my new ability to hear. You could really make a profound difference in the quality of someone’s life.
Of course, if you are going to approach someone about helping them purchase a hearing aid, you would want to do so with sensitivity and tact. Most likely they will be very grateful, but at times I could be defensive about the fact that I couldn’t hear well. If they don’t think hearing aids will help them or that they “get along fine” without one, put them in touch with me. You can bet it is a conversation I will hear and would love to have.