Thinking about retiring soon? Don’t forget to factor hearing healthcare costs into your retirement budget. According to estimates from HealthView Insights, a provider of retirement health care planning applications, the average American couple retiring in 2017 and covered by Medicare parts B and D with a supplemental insurance plan can expect to spend $404,253 (today’s dollars) in retirement for health care, with out-of-pocket hearing and vision costs accounting for four percent of the total.
Naturally, healthcare costs vary from state to state, as well as between genders. They also increase as you age. The bottom line? Healthcare is expensive -- healthcare in retirement is MORE expensive. Experts say it takes the biggest chunk of the budget next to the mortgage payment. While Medicare premiums will likely be your biggest bill, there are also a lot of out-of-pocket expenses you’ll have to pay for which Medicare doesn’t cover. Right now, that includes hearing aids.
Start saving for health care
One of the best ways to plan for out-of-pocket costs like hearing aids is by contributing to a Flexible Savings Account (FSA) while you’re still working. Neither contributions nor withdrawals are taxed as long as they are used for health care-related costs. Currently, an employee is allowed to bank $2600 in a FSA annually. Although it’s not required, some employers make contributions to their employees’ FSAs. All FSA money must be used during the plan year. Check with your employer to determine what options are available to you. You may be able to start your retirement years off right by using your FSA funds to buy hearing aids just before you stop working.
If you aren’t working, determine how much you’ll need to set aside for health care costs each month and put it in a savings account you can access quickly. According to HealthView, the average monthly healthcare costs for a 65-year old couple is $947. The same couple can expect to spend triple that amount by age 85.
Tax planning with hearing aids can also be a consideration in retirement. Ask your accountant if you qualify for a deduction for hearing aids or other medical equipment.
Adopt a healthy lifestyle
Of course, the healthier you are, the less you’ll have to pay. You can dramatically reduce the amount of health care costs you incur in retirement by adopting healthy habits right now. And here’s the good news. When you lose excess weight, stop smoking, exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet, it benefits your hearing health, too. That’s because the hair cells of your inner ear depend on a healthy supply of oxygen and blood flow in order to do their job. Before you retire, get started on healthy habits by taking advantage of any employer-sponsored benefits such as smoking cessation and weigh management programs.
Retirement may mean you have extra time to enjoy hobbies - even the noisy ones. Protecting your hearing from exposure to loud noise is another way to preserve the health of the inner ear. Pack foam ear plugs whenever you know you’ll be in a loud environment, such as a sporting event, concert or celebration where loud explosions are expected. Buy customized earphones for hobbies such as hunting or racing where noise is excessive.
Don’t skimp on hearing health
Most Americans over the age of 65 will develop some type of sensorineural hearing loss, which is typically treatable with hearing aids. The cost of hearing aids vary. Depending upon the severity of your hearing loss and your listening environments, you can expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 for each device.
And although you think you can save a few dollars by not treating hearing loss, the opposite is actually true. Untreated hearing loss can cost you money. A study by the Better Hearing Institute estimates lost income from untreated hearing loss can be as much as $30,000 annually. A study conducted by the Medical University of South Carolina found those with untreated hearing loss had medical bills as much as 33 percent higher than those without hearing loss. In light of those statistics, saving for hearing healthcare in retirement makes fiscal sense.
There’s no time like the present to get started. Talk to your employer about a FSA or work with your financial advisor to determine how much you should set aside each month. If you haven’t seen a hearing healthcare professional lately, now is the time to make an appointment. After administering a hearing evaluation, they can make recommendations based on your current hearing health, lifestyle and budget.