Don’t Let Clients Stay Silent on Hearing Loss

You help protect their financial portfolios. Help them protect their cognitive health by urging them to address their hearing.

By Amy Florian
Amy Florian
Amy Florian

In order to be an exceptional financial advisor, you must develop good personal relationships with your clients and consistently offer them information and advice that makes a difference in their lives, not just their portfolios. Have you ever thought to encourage them to have their hearing checked? It’s more important than they may realize, and you provide unique value by bringing it up.

You may find clients initially resistant to the idea. They may believe they don’t have hearing loss. But the kind of slow, progressive changes that occur as people age are almost impossible to perceive on a daily basis. The only way to know for sure is to have their hearing tested by a hearing professional.

Another factor that can create pushback is the perception in society that hearing loss, and especially the use of hearing aids, is a sure sign of advanced age and declining abilities. Unfortunately, that’s the opposite of the truth. Just as someone may need eyeglasses for vision at any age, hearing loss knows no age boundaries. And failing to get hearing aids quickly can create irreversible loss, while correcting hearing loss actually prevents aging, decline, and dementia.

Hearing 101

To understand how hearing is connected to these different factors, we need to examine the science of the brain. Here’s how it works: Our ears pick up on frequencies and turn those into electrical signals sent to the brain, where neurons and synapses respond to the stimuli. The frequencies we hear each have unique neural pathways in the brain and whenever we hear a sound, that pathway gets reinforced.

But if the ear stops hearing a particular sound, the brain stops receiving those signals, and those neurons and synapses stop firing. As that pathway becomes dormant and “unused,” it gets diverted to other brain functions as a natural part of the brain’s incredible plasticity — the ability to adapt itself for maximum efficiency.

In other words, if the brain stops hearing certain sounds or ranges of sound, over time it “forgets” how to hear that sound; it literally loses the pathway. And the longer the brain hasn’t heard a sound, the less likely that it will ever rebuild the ability to do so, even if it starts hearing those sounds again.

Why is this important to your clients? It means that if your clients wait too long to address hearing loss, even the best hearing aid in the world can only do so much to restore their lost hearing. On the other hand, the sooner hearing aids correct a deficiency, the “younger” and more active that area of the brain stays.

Get Them Talking

You can discuss your clients’ hearing with them in the context of social interaction — the inconvenience and embarrassment of not being able to hear and communicate smoothly with others, especially in loud environments like a restaurant. But don’t stop there, because the consequences of hearing loss go far beyond annoyance or a social faux pas.

Recent science has shown that hearing loss is a major risk factor for developing dementia! A 2017 study found that hearing loss accounts for 8% of the prevalence of dementia, the largest effect of any “potentially modifiable” risk factor, including smoking, depression, social isolation, and even traumatic brain injury. A 2023 study found that those with moderate to severe hearing loss had a 61% higher prevalence of dementia, and that hearing aid use was associated with a 32% reduction in dementia. While there are several different theories on the exact casual mechanism, it’s clear that addressing hearing loss is an easy, effective way to mitigate the risk for dementia.

For all these reasons, it’s vital that you and your clients take hearing loss seriously, ignore any stigma around hearing aids, and get help before it’s too late. Thankfully, though, this is now easier than ever.

New Options

In the past, an individual could only get hearing aids via a prescription from a hearing health professional. But in October of 2022, the FDA authorized the sale of over-the-counter hearing aids that can be purchased directly by consumers. OTC hearing aids are not designed to address severe hearing loss, but they are significantly more affordable than prescription hearing aids and are sufficient for many users.

One can even take a “hybrid” approach of purchasing OTC aids but then working with a hearing professional to get them finely tuned to one’s unique hearing needs.

Here are two excellent overviews of OTC hearing aids that you can share with clients. Both resources, one from HelpGuide.org and the other from New York Times Wirecutter, include reviews and ratings.

In starting a conversation about hearing loss with your clients, you set yourself apart as an informed, thoughtful advisor willing to go above and beyond in order to ensure your clients have the best lives possible. You do the right thing on a human level, and at the same time, you gain life-long trust and loyalty from your clients. And I hope you apply these principles to yourself, too, and go get your hearing checked!

Amy Florian is an expert in life transition, an innovator in advisor education, and a transformational speaker & author. She is the founder & CEO of Corgenius, the first company to teach financial professionals how to support their clients in times of grief, loss and transition. She has delivered over 1,000 speaking engagements across four continents, published over 250 articles, and is the author of two multi-award-winning books. Visit www.corgenius.com to learn more.

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