Financial professionals may have a hard time telling boomer clients how it is if the clients have lost their ability to hear.
Decades of occupational exposure, airplane rides and loud stereos are starting to take their toll on boomers’ ears. The Census Bureau found in 2000 that more than 13% of all adults say they are hard of hearing.
When Clarity, a unit of Plantronics Inc., Santa Cruz, Calif., that makes telephone conversation amplifiers and other equipment for people with hearing problems, commissioned a boomer survey in 2006, 53% of the participating boomers said they believe they suffer from some degree of hearing loss. Among Clarity survey participants with annual household incomes over $100,000, the rate of moderate hearing loss was about 12%.
For advisors who are helping individual boomer clients with matters such as retirement or estate planning, one challenge may be making sure that voicemail system messages, website audio recordings and other audio communications are as clear as they can be and, when possible, supplemented with written versions of the same information, experts say.
Advisors also may want to take steps to verify and document that boomers have heard any important advice given through oral conversation.
Advisors helping individual boomers with health insurance or helping employers develop boomer-friendly benefit plans may discover another challenge: Limits on coverage. “Most medical plans don’t cover hearing aids,” says Erich Sternberg, president of AlwaysCare Benefits Inc., Baton Rouge, La.
Patients who decide they need hearing aids may face substantial out-of-pocket costs because modern, high-quality hearing aids can cost thousands of dollars per ear, Sternberg says.
AlwaysCare, a dental and vision benefits company, has responded to the gap by working with Ear Professionals International Corp., City of Industry, Calif., to add what it believes to be the first insured ancillary benefits rider that covers hearing-related products and services.
For a price of about $18 per year for an adult, the plan includes coverage for yearly hearing screening, hearing aid evaluation services every 5 years, and many other features, such as a hearing aid purchase allowance and discounts on hearing aids.