If you’re not careful, having a spouse who’s hard of hearing is sort of like being on a permanent first date. There are moments when you both stare at one another, one afraid to admit they can’t hear you, and the other too polite to point it out.
The key word here is politeness. Unlike, say, my propensity in failing to put the butter back in the fridge every morning, browbeating someone over an impairment is cruel and pointless (I would say the same about the butter, but I suspect I won’t get much in the way of fellowship here). So with kindness and patience, we repeat quite a bit in our home. And remember to talk slightly louder too.
Gorgeous got her first pair of hearing aids four years ago. They were an in-ear model bought literally at the 11th hour, in the waning days of December, just as were about to switch over to a new insurance plan. The newer coverage did not offer as generous of a hearing aid benefit. I wanted to make sure she got the more generous benefit before the year ended.
For an entire day after her second appointment, she looked at me with utter contempt because she had to suffer through a most uncomfortable fitting in order to get a correct mold made of her ear canals. It was a scary procedure, and as far as she was concerned all fault lay with your humble blogger.
However, once the new hearing aids arrived, and fit snugly into each of her ears, she was earnestly happy. The devices were smartly hidden from view where no one could see them. And as a special bonus, she could now hear all of my Important Words (just like the president, I use the absolute best).
Fast forward to 2019…
Did you know that hearing aids only have a lifespan of about three to seven years? In fact, the in-ear models tend to last only four to five years. I’ve got sneakers older than that.
In the last few months Gorgeous started to notice that she was again struggling to hear some of the dialogue on TV shows; I in turn observed a familiar refrain of, “Huh? What?” in our interactions.
Unable to solve the problem by cleaning the devices as she had been taught, she called a local franchise of the hearing aid company (we had since moved away from the one where her set had been purchased). The woman who answered the phone — whom we later learned was the office receptionist — proceeded to talk Gorgeous through some additional cleaning steps.
“Gently twist off the upper cap.”
“Okay. ..… oh, dear...
You know how sometimes you just get a feeling? This was one of those moments. Apparently more than just the upper cap was twisted off.
A day later we found ourselves in the office of this local dealer. The now chagrined receptionist arranged with the audiologist to have the hearing aid sent back to the manufacturer for repair free of charge. And as long as we were there, they also looked over the non-damaged hearing aid and made some fixes to it.
More questions for you: did you know that May is Hearing Aid Awareness Month? And by chance, did you also know the best time to buy new hearing aids just also happens to be during the month of May?!
I bet you know where this is heading. There are tons of promotions, price reductions, and manufacturer rebates during the month of May.
There are also now quite a few more options and styles than there were four years ago. And like a psychic in a crystal shop (trust me, it’s very similar to a kid in a candy store), Gorgeous was soon tantalized by all the new offerings.
I’m convinced now that the receptionist gets a cut for every hearing aid she can break over the phone by unsuspecting customers.
After being given a hearing test that showed a minor increase in hearing loss, we looked at several new models over three different price categories. Best of all, behind-the-ear configurations have improved to such a degree that it made sense to switch from the in-ear model, both from a comfort standpoint and a technological one.
Gorgeous would no longer have an uncomfortable device sticking in her ear, plus a degree of vanity is offered if she wears her hair down. Win/win.
As luck would have it, we are now back on the same previous health insurance coverage that we had previously. The reimbursement amount is thankfully still fairly generous, and so this inspired my lovely bride to go for that higher price category. 
The higher quality device offers more bells and whistles. For the model Gorgeous chose, it means additional “pre-sets” that allow a user to switch auditory settings based on an activity or the physical environment in which one find themself (i.e. phone calls, movie theater, restaurants, grocery store, TV viewing, etc.).
You change to a pre-set simply by clicking on a button on the back of one of the devices. Each one is broadcast in a quiet voice that whispers “TV,” “Restaurant,” etc.
I’m now worried that there might also be one that whispers “Husband.”
So the same day her damaged hearing aid was sent for repair, she ordered new ones. Once again, we’re doing our small part in keeping this fragile economy stimulated. She had to go about a week with only wearing one hearing aid, but on the day we returned to the dealer she received both her new pair, and also the older one now repaired.
The old pair can be used as a back-up set.
We are indeed fortunate that we can afford the luxury of not only advanced hearing aids, but also in having that back-up set. It’s frustrating to know that Original Medicare does not have hearing aid coverage, and that only a percentage of Advantage plans do. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, 48 million Americans suffer from some form of hearing impairment.
Until next time…
An early retirement, pre-Medicare enrollment lesson I’ve learned over the last five years: don’t take shortcuts on health insurance. For two years I enrolled us in “adequate” coverage to save a few shekels, but we are now back on a full coverage plan. If you possibly can, go for the best health plan that you can afford.