I’m generally an extremely healthy person. I’ve never come close to ever maxing out my sick leave at work (hardly ever using it), and the only time I’ve ever stayed overnight in a hospital was to give birth to my son. I’m not allergic to anything, and I generally check “no” all the way down on medical questionnaires. All in all, outside of childbirth, my medical bills have hardly shown up in our expense breakdown from year to year. That all changed at 29, when I suddenly lost hearing in my right ear.

A year ago, I came down with a high fever (102-104 degrees) for a better part of a week. It was bad enough that I eventually did call the nurse hotline and would have gone in the following day had the fever not finally broken on its own. After the fever was gone, I expected everything to go back to normal like it usually does after one of the rare bouts of sicknesses that hit me every couple of years.

For a couple days, everything did seem to be fine. After all, it was just a one time fever, and I was a very healthy twenty nine year old. Nothing health wise had affected me for very long.

This time though, something was different. My right ear started to feel full of cotton and I couldn’t really hear out of it. So being the kind of person who reserves the doctor and urgent care for real emergencies, I first tried to clean out some ear wax (there wasn’t really any), and then just to wait it out. I had no real reason to think there was something really wrong, because there never was.

Finally though, I realized that things weren’t getting better on their own, so I called urgent care and made an appointment to be seen the next day. From that appointment, I was sent to have a follow up with an ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) specialist. They had me come in right away, because apparently hearing issues are generally addressed as quickly as possible.

Once the doctor had seen me, I was sent down the hall for the first hearing test I’d had since the standard one you’re given in elementary school. He let me know that there was nothing superficially wrong with my eardrum or any other visible part of my ear, so the next step was to confirm how bad the hearing loss was (I knew it was pretty bad already, but they had to determine how bad that meant – not just “I can’t even hear when I rub two fingers together right next to my ear”).

At least my left ear works fine

Once it was confirmed that the hearing loss was extreme, I got immediately put on a steroid pill regiment while going through additional tests, to include an MRI, to confirm there were no serious underlying causes for the abrupt hearing loss (there weren’t). The steroids did eventually bring my hearing up about halfway back to normal, but even the next step of steroid injections didn’t improve it beyond that.

At this point, the only improvement I’ll see is if I eventually break down and get a hearing aid. I’m managing okay for now, but that may be a route I take one day, and the only option if I want to have “normal” hearing ever again. I didn’t expect to ring in my 30s with a permanent health issue, but it is what it is.

Health Insurance

I am fortunate to work for a company with some great health benefits, so my copays aren’t extreme and most clinics in our area are “in network.” I’ve never had to pick a second or third choice place because of out of network status. We also live in an area with great healthcare, so there are a lot of options. Within the city itself, we have a top national hospital and huge clusters of clinics that surround it. The ENT, hearing test center, and the MRI facility were all in the same building. We’ve lived in places where this certainly hasn’t been the case, so I do appreciate that my health issue waited until we were in a more “convenient” location to take care of it.

I’ve talked to people who travel hours to get tests and work done in our area due to the lack of healthcare options (and high prices) in their towns, so it is definitely one upside to living in a HCOL area.

More here than just pretty trails

The Importance Of Flexibility

During the months long ordeal, I had at minimum one appointment a week at the hospital complex, but since I’m off work around 2PM every day, I was able to work my schedule so I didn’t have to miss work. The process was stressful and overwhelming to begin with, but I didn’t have to deal with asking for time off work – with or without pay.

Outside of full retirement, I do have a schedule that allows for regular appointments when the need arises, but having to go so frequently really took a toll on me. Dealing with hearing loss was upsetting by itself, but having to figure it out on top of work would have been that much harder. Again and again, I keep finding reasons why cutting my hours at work was the right thing to do.

Cost Breakdown

While the total cost wasn’t overwhelming, it was a significant amount of money for an unexpected health issue. If I do ever go the route of getting a hearing aid, the cost will be in the thousands. My grandmother has them, and even through Medicaid, the cost is astronomical.

Procedure Cost
Urgent Care Appointment $55.00
Initial ENT $30.00
Second ENT $30.00
Steroid Pills $57.00
Hearing Test (4) $220.00
MRI $861.00
Steroid Injections (3) $150.00
Final ENT Appointment $30.00
Total $1,433.00

Emergency Funds And Cash Flow

Thankfully, as we live below our means and generally have a decent savings in an emergency fund, I didn’t have to make any choices based on cost alone. Since the cost wasn’t astronomical, we paid for it out of pocket. While we weren’t in the position a year ago, our 50% savings rate now makes it so we can cash flow an event like that without having to dip into our savings at all.

If we didn’t have the funds to deal with unexpected events, it would have been difficult to agree to all of the tests and procedures necessary. I could have foregone the MRI, but it confirmed that there were no underlying health issues causing the deafness. The peace of mind that came from confirming there was no worse problem was well worth it.

Financial Independence And Health Care

While many FIRE proponents live on $25,000 – $30,000 a year and have very low health care costs, it doesn’t take much to rack up big numbers with medical care. We are quite a few years away from hitting financial independence, and we aren’t sure that we’ll ever want to fully retire, so I’m not as concerned with what things look like in the United States right now. However, if you are within a couple of years of early retirement, I would strongly suggest reading through OurNextLife’s articles on health care. I’m hopeful that things will work out long term in this county, but we are nowhere near a sustainable system at this point.

This experience with an unexpected health problem has further solidified my desire to reach financial independence. Regardless of what we hope to do with work in the future, our health and career are not guaranteed. No matter what life throws at us, we will be ready on the financial side of things.

While being partially deaf in one ear is extremely minor in the scheme of things, it has impacted my life more than I would have anticipated. I have to make sure to walk to the right of people so I can hear them clearly. I only use one headphone to listen to music or podcasts because the right side is too muffled to understand. I have a hard time talking to my son in the backseat when I drive him around. Busy restaurants are no longer fun because the loud background noise makes it almost impossible to follow conversations. I have to pay attention to where I sit in work meetings so I can hear what is said (and still sometimes miss points).

I didn’t expect to be 29 years old and understand this post on #HearingPrivilege, but life throws curve balls sometimes. I appreciate that I still can hear as well as I do, and that my big frustrating health problem doesn’t even come close to what so many people deal with every day. The pursuit of financial independence is about freedom and choice to make the best decision possible for the situation you’re in, outside of the money factor. I hope to be healthy and interested in continuing to work for many years to come, but I want to be prepared no matter what.

92 thoughts on “Suddenly Deaf: Health Care And Financial Independence

  1. I’m really sorry to hear this happened to you. I had a lot of hearing issues as a kid but luckily have little longterm damage. Hearing is definitely something that we all take for granted. Just like most things health-related, you don’t realize how important they are until they’re gone.

    1. Glad to hear that things mostly resolved for you. I’ve been so healthy all my life so this has definitely been an eye opening experience. I am thankful to have the hearing I have left though, to be sure.

  2. My mom had a significant loss in her right ear around age 45. So I feel for you as I’ve seen firsthand how it has affected her throughout life. It bugs me that hearing aids are so expensive. I’m convinced that if they were not related to our healthcare reimbursements and were sold like other electronics, they would be around $100-$200 bucks.

    Still, I would encourage you to consider the big purchase. You may not realize what you are missing. I feel that my Mom missed a lot of what was going on. She is very nice and polite, which may have made it worse to ask people to repeat. A financially savvy person like you can probably make up the expense by using your skills at budgeting and investing. Some costs are that important. I wish you the best. Sorry you have this loss.

    1. Yeah it really makes no sense how insanely expensive they are. At this point, it’s been more of a point of pride not to get one than the cost itself (as well as not wanting to have to go through a ton more appointments etc to get one). But maybe those aren’t such good reasons.

      1. As a 30-something with lifelong moderate hearing loss, I really encourage you to try the hearing aid and get over the “pride” issue. Trust me, I completely understand. I wore hearing aids as a child but stopped wearing them in junior high thru college because of the stigma.. I didn’t want anyone to judge me! So instead, I was that awkward girl who just kinda giggled when I didn’t hear something fully. I was too embarrassed to ask someone to repeat themselves for the 3rd time. I think a lot of people who didn’t know me just assumed I was kinda dumb or “not all there”. Once I started to wear them again as an adult, I realized how much I missed out on. Looking back, I would have much rather worn them and been completely present around my friends and family. It’s worth it. And if you find a good audiologist, it’s usually just two appointments. One for the testing and then fitting. Wishing you the best!

      2. Thanks for the insight. I keep telling myself that I can compensate by the fact that my left ear works fine, but you’re probably right.

  3. Sorry to hear about you’re hearing. Glad it did improve some at least and doesn’t seem to be caused by anything more serious. This is another great example where the ability to live below your means is SO worth it to have cash on hand when needed, even if it’s just peace of mind.

    1. Peace of mind is seriously important to me. I’m a worrier by nature so not getting the MRI would have been way too stressful for me.

      1. I’m a super worrier when it comes to health issues, so getting the MRI wasn’t a question. My husband on the other hand may have skipped it 😉

  4. I’m so glad you wrote this. My mom is totally deaf in her right ear and always has been My cousin is too. Her daughter is losing her hearing in her one ear now. None of them wear hearing aids. It wouldn’t help in two cases, and my cousin’s daughter found it horribly uncomfortable to reconcile with her other ear. It’s a deeply personal decision. I’m glad you’ve been able to deal with this resourcefully. Wishing you the very best!

    (And I hear you on the health care cost side of FIRE. It makes me shudder to think about.)

    1. I never thought about it maybe being hard to have just one versus two. I’m finding that there is a LOT more partial deafness out there than I ever realized – probably because it is something that just isn’t talked about.

  5. I’m glad it was only one ear and not both! My husband and two sons have high frequency hearing loss. Only my oldest son, 19, wears hearing aids, though. My younger son tried them, but he didn’t feel like they helped. Have you looked into any financial assistance from non-profits in your area? My son received his hearing aids as well as a “pen” which is like an FM-device/microphone. It pulls in sound and sends it straight to his hearing aids. Vocational Rehab, part of the Dept of Education, funded them, and they pay for his college books and part of his college tuition. Maybe you are eligible for some services.

    1. SO glad it’s just one ear! There was some weirdness going on with my left ear too, but it appears the round of steroids mostly fixed that (basically I could hear sounds fine but my brain was then having trouble interpreting them into separate words). I hadn’t looked into financial assistance, but as we make a median income for this area, I didn’t think there would be any for me. I’ll be sure to look into that if I ever do go the hearing aid route.

  6. What a shocking and frustrating experience this must be for you. I’m sorry to hear about this. Yes, health care is a huge concern for us too in thinking about future options. It is crazy that it still seems to tied to traditional employment but at least we are seeing some gradual shifts starting to happen. Also, agreed on excellent and convenient healthcare being one of the big perks of living in a high cost area. Yet another variable to consider if early retirement would require relocation to a lower-cost area, as it may for us. Thank you for sharing your story.

    1. The health care variable of LCOL areas is more than just having a hospital nearby, as I’ve learned. We’ve talked a little bit (not seriously) about life on one of the islands north of here, and this experience made me realize that in this sort of situation, I’d have to be making regular hours long trips until things were taken care of. Not something that sounds like fun.

  7. Thanks for sharing this story. It’s really important to get this kind of perspective in the totality of the personal finance stuff we usually read.

    1. Thank you. Even a year later, it was a hard one to write. It’s been more of an impact on my life than I often admit even to myself.

  8. Yikes, I hadn’t heard the full story. So sorry this happened!

    I’m so glad money wasn’t an issue for you and that you could make the decision to have the MRI to rule out anything else. If it were me and I didn’t get it I’d most definitely always wonder if an MRI would’ve showed anything (when I sprained my ankle I knew it wasn’t broken but got X-rays anyway just to be sure. Also it was covered by workers’ comp or I probably wouldn’t have made that decision). It’s frustrating that you don’t know why this happened, but I guess a lack of underlying health issues is good!

    1. Even with the MRI it’s only “most likely” not caused by an underlying health issue. So now I get to have follow up hearing tests every year to make sure things don’t get worse. Hooray.

  9. Wow – I’m so sorry to hear you were so sick and have lost part of your hearing! I do have 2 friends that have lost hearing in one ear. One from being sick as well – I never knew this could happen or be permanent! And her biggest frustrations are a lot what you list. She’s so uncomfortable at loud places to eat or parties, she just doesn’t go.

    Great reminder for the importance of an emergency fund. Health specialists can be so expensive. One never thinks they may need them…but this was a great example of how you can unexpectedly. Glad to hear you are doing better!

    1. Hey, at least we have less incentive to spend loads of money going out to eat at busy places now 😉 I always enjoyed having people at my house for parties, but now I have an even greater appreciation for that option.

  10. Thanks for sharing your story to us Angela. So sorry to read about your loss of hearing, it really shows that we can’t take our health for granted because you never know what may happen. One day we all fine and healthy and the next we can sit in a hospital bed waiting for results from the doctor on our condition.
    This also shows that living below your means can really help out by having the extra cash in hand for situations like your hearing. Many people unfortunately cannot come up with even with $1000 of emergency funds and thus cannot make medical payments in emergency situations.

    1. Yeah, I can’t imagine having to make health decisions based on the money side of things, but so many in this country do. And this experience makes me darn sure that my FI number needs to have some serious buffer for healthcare (beyond just monthly minimums).

  11. One of my long time friends has always been mostly deaf in one ear due to illness as a child, I don’t think she had the option of wearing a hearing aid and it was a real pain for her at times since her work was incredibly demanding. She manages it fine, of course, but I know it’s a pain.

    I hope that it can be an option for you, and becomes affordable, should you want it.

    My fingers are crossed that this is the extent of it and you don’t experience any further hearing loss. As a resident expert in “WTF how did that even happen” chronic illnesses, we can learn to be grateful for what we didn’t lose but it would be *really nice* if the list stayed static.

    1. I’m finding that the mostly invisible illnesses and health issues that are around are waaaaay more prevalent than I ever realized. Unless I tell someone, they have absolutely no clue. I wonder if we’ll ever get to a point where it isn’t something to hide – especially in the professional realm. And fingers crossed I don’t join you in the wtf random chronic illnesses camp beyond this hearing loss.

  12. Gosh what a shock for you – so sorry to hear your news. So good that you were financially able to cover things. Living in the UK we are so blessed to have the National Health Service and when I saw your costs I thanked my lucky stars!
    Due to various health issues in recent years I have paid privately for physio sessions to augment NHS care offered. If we hadnt been financially savvy; it would have been a struggle but it wasn’t – thank goodness. Bless you and hope your hearing stabilises.

    1. And we have pretty good coverage personally, so this number could have easily been double or triple with lesser insurance. Things seem to be stable for now, so fingers crossed it stays that way, thank you.

  13. When I was 17 or 18, I had a brutal cold that blocked up both of my ears and caused them both to have tinnitus. When the cold finally lifted, I couldn’t hear very well in my left–went through similar processes (no MRIs or steroids, tho) to learn I’d lost some high-pitch tones in my left ear. So bizarre. I never even thought to go to the doctor when it was happening, and lo.

    What I would give, tho, for health care to NOT be tethered to employment in this country.

    1. So bizarre. Glad it at least sounds like your hearing went back to normal more or less. And yes – I am no more deserving of good healthcare than anyone else. Hearing shouldn’t be something I’m “privileged” to still have some of.

  14. I was a diver and after an emergency ascent suffered hearing loss in my left ear. Tried to hide it but CO caught on. Hard to lie when they put those headphones on you. It did earn me a ticket stateside. After that I seemed to confuse people because I favored my right side and people sometimes asked me to look at them when we’re talking. I’m not sure it ever got better but I mostly adapted and stopped noticing it. The good news is when you get older the other ear seems to eventually match. Maybe it’s vanity but I still resist the hearing aids. I and those around me are getting to the age where things seem to be catching up to us. My brother-in-law was a fighter pilot and he now wears hearing aids and it is really hard to tell they’re in (his were free from the Uncle) and it is much easier talking with him now (we used to have to repeat things a lot). Maybe it’s just hard for us to admit that we really have a problem and I can tick off a dozen or more things that would be a lot worse. You just have to do what feels right for you. Good luck

    1. My husband definitely has some military-related hearing loss, and he’s told me you do generally adapt to it, and I have seen that be the case even within this first year. Vanity, or pride, definitely has a lot to do with resisting a hearing aid.

    1. Oh thank you! Fingers crossed things are stable for me at this point, but unfortunately you never know 😕

    1. It sucks, but yeah, it’s life. Trying to be transparent with the blog and share the not fun parts and well as the Instagram worthy ones 😉

  15. Like others have noted before me, I’m sorry to hear about your hearing loss. I was around your age when I hurt my back and my physical therapists said I had a back of a 50 year old. I consider myself very lucky though; I found an amazing physical therapist who used yoga to treat me and I have no pain at all most days.

    My boss list hearing in one ear as a child and he would very smoothly move to the other side of people to hear if they were on the wrong side. He very recently got a hearing aid and was testing it out in a meeting. In short, he handles the issue with grace, and I truly admire him for that. Your story just reminded me of this. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I am definitely getting good at the adjusting myself around people so I can hear better. And glad that your back is doing so much better these days! That’s worse than lack of hearing.

  16. How scary that this could happen after what seems like a seemingly normal illness, I’m so sorry. I’m like you and prefer to let sickness run it’s course instead of rushing out to the doctor, and luckily, I’ve been healthy with nothing major but this makes me think about being more cautious. I’m from Canada, so health insurance and co-pays aren’t something I know a lot about. It sounds like you have good coverage though, and are prepared in other ways.

    1. Yeah, this was a case where rushing would have been a good idea, as I learned later. Apparently acute hearing damage has the best chance for reversal the sooner you catch it. I do believe in general people go to the doctor to frequently for colds and the like, but they can be seriously helpful when the case arises.

  17. Sorry this happened. It is very frustrating to not hear well and feels islolating. Good that it has motivated you to always be in a position to cover your healthcare costs by being financially independent.

    1. It does feel very isolating. I hadn’t considered it, but perhaps part of my more introverted habits that have shown up recently are due to the hearing loss (though I’m still quite extroverted by nature).

  18. Oh dang, that’s crazy. I’m sorry you are going through that. I took Audiology last semester and it was so interesting, but I can’t imagine how hard that must be to experience. When my nephew was 3, an iron gate fell over in a friend’s yard and landed on his head, pinning him to the ground and gave a skull fracture on each side. He’s 8 now and just got hearing aids as a result. Crazy how many things affect hearing!

    1. Oh wow. That is so scary. Glad he is okay!! Crazy how the need showed up so much later. But yes – it’s amazing more people aren’t hard of hearing considering how many things can affect it.

  19. I’m sorry to hear of your hearing loss. Like Susan @ FI Ideas commented, I’m annoyed that hearing aids cost so much. I’ve seen relatives postpone getting them for that reason. On a positive note, I’m thankful your part-time schedule helped accommodate those extra medical appointments. While that’s not why you work part-time, your schedule did come to the rescue when needed. Great post, thank you for sharing this story.

    1. I’d have to say the cost factor isn’t the highest on the list for not getting one by any stretch, but they sure aren’t cheap. I can’t imagine being on a low fixed budget and trying to find a way to pay for them.

  20. Geez sorry to read about your hearing loss, Angela. Did they ever tell you the cause of the hearing loss- fever related or did you have an ear infection? Even with the copay you paid a lot- in Canada everything is covered though we might not have access to MRI’s so quickly (there’s a few month- maybe 8- waitlist for MRI’s but involving joint injuries, perhaps it is likely faster for something as urgent as hearing loss).

    1. No ear infection, and there’s no guarantee the fever was related at all (just likely due to timing). We definitely pay more in the United States for everything medical related. The upside is I was able to get that MRI within a week.

  21. That sounds like a very scary experience. You never expect something like this to happen out of nowhere when young and healthy.

    Health insurance is so expensive especially if self employed or retired early. It’s a huge barrier and I’m not exactly sure what we’ll do if we’re ever in a situation where we’re not covered under an employer plan.

    1. It definitely caught me by surprise as something I never expected to happen to me. It was a bit scary while we were ruling out root causes. The health exchange in Washington is pretty good (we had it even before ACA), but you never know when things can change on that front.

    1. Totally scary. It seems to have stabilized, so now it’s just been about getting used to dealing with the loss.

    1. Early retirement in the United States versus other countries is sure different when it comes down to health care.

  22. So sorry that this has happened to you Angela but you seem to have a great positive attitude about it, and that’s a powerful thing. I have some minor hearing loss in one ear but that was caused by playing in rock bands. I love music so much that it scared me to death, so I started being super-vigilant about wearing ear plugs and protection when playing or going to see a concert.

    1. Yeah, my husband is always joking with me that at least his hearing loss comes from cool things – like helicopter rides and explosions 😉

  23. This is a great reminder of how life can throw you a curve. I think I’m in a similar situation as you where I’ve been very healthy and almost have this “air of invincibility” where I think it’ll always be this way.

    This is why it’s good to prepare for any unexpected costs like this and as you get older it only gets more expensive and higher risk. It’s something I definitely need to consider more in my future planning. I’m sorry to hear about this but it’s good that you have a positive attitude about it!

    1. I hear you on the feeling invincible on the health side of things – my older family members have generally all been very healthy as well, so I’ve more of less expected to follow that. This experience with my hearing definitely reminded me that nothing in life is guaranteed and it’s good to be prepared for those unexpected costs.

  24. I am sorry this happened to you and at such a young age. However, it does sound as if you are dealing with it the best way you can. It’s great that you are not letting it get you down or stop you from doing what you want to do.

    1. Not much else I can do at this point, but it’s taken most of the year to really come to terms that it’s not going to magically get better, and this is a permanent change.

  25. I’m so sorry this happened! My father in law was born deaf in one ear, so he has his assigned seat the dinner table so he can participate in the conversation. It took a while for me to catch on, since it is easy to forget something invisible like that.
    I have hope that medical costs will get sorted out in the US in the next decade or so. And until then we plan to at least work part time at a job with medical benefits. With my husband’s chronic headaches we have seen our fair share of medical bills and greatly appreciate our heavily discounted copays. (Our grad-student insurance is the best we’ve ever had.)
    Another privilege that comes with our normal jobs is having access to an FSA, so we can pay the medical expenses with pre-tax dollars. Most lower wage or part time jobs don’t offer that, and their employees would benefit most from FSAs.

    1. I love that he has an assigned seat at the dinner table! I may need to take up that policy myself. It’s kind of incredible how many invisible handicaps are out there that you never hear about. Not something I talk about a ton either.

  26. I’m sorry to hear that. I hope the steroid pills help. It sounds like you went in early enough to get treated.
    My son developed hearing loss in his left ear and we had no idea how it happened. It might have been high fever. He probably wasn’t old enough to tell us about it when it developed. It came up during a routine test at school. We got hearing aid for him, but it doesn’t seem to help much.
    Health care is a huge issue.

    Ok, I see that it’s been a year so it won’t improve at this point. Too bad the steroid pills didn’t work. You should try hearing aid and see if it helps. It might not, though. It’s tough, but life goes on.

    1. The steroid pills helped a ton – I can sorta hear in my right ear now versus almost not at all. The following steroid injections (tmi – needle through my eardrum) didn’t do anything better. Frustrating that a hearing aid doesn’t even always help so well. Hopefully since your kiddo is so young it will be easier for him to adapt to it in the long run. And hey, at least that means I’m in good company 😉

  27. My daughter lost complete hearing in one ear this way. It never came back. So far she is a normal 10 year old, but we worry. She was 3 when it happened.

    1. Oh no 🙁 I’m really sorry to hear that. So frustrating that they can’t figure out what the heck happens sometimes. And I agree – the worry is still there that it could be something more that just hasn’t been diagnosed yet.

  28. My husband has some hearing loss in both of his ears with no real diagnosis. His is genetic and happened sort of gradually though. I see how it makes things tough for him. He has a hard time in restaurants and anywhere with background noise as well.
    I hope you are able to get a hearing aid to help you one day. We haven’t gone down that road either because it just costs SO much. Big thumbs down to our current healthcare system.

    1. I can see how both ears would be SO MUCH harder. At least as long as I can position myself I can hear (well enough). My husband has some hearing loss in both ears as well, but his is due to the military, so a very direct cause. The problem with hearing aids too is that it isn’t a one time cost like LASIK either.

  29. Thank you for sharing! It is crazy how something normal like the flu or a cold can have long term effect. We have some minor hearing loss in our family with various relatives. I wish my Dad would get a hearing aid because he misses large chunks of conversations and it is hard to talk with him. You might at least look into it and see what it involves. It is so awesome that you have great health insurance!

    1. It’s been a night and day difference for my grandmother for sure. Maybe some day I’ll look into it, but I’m not ready now.

  30. Wow… what a great reminder to be SO THANKFUL for all the things we take for granted. Hearing, sight, smell, working knees, functional organs… I’m sorry you had such an unexpected shock, but SO glad for you that you are in a place in your life to handle it comfortably. It makes me so sad to think of the huge number of people who would be financially wrecked by these expenses. And yeah, at least you have a much lower incentive to go spend money in loud crowded restaurants. 🙂 I’ll be sure to keep this in mind when I come see you soon!! (I talk REALLY quietly, feel free to tell me to speak up!)

    1. Thankfully everything else works pretty well (so far). And as long as you talk into my left ear, it should be just fine. And can’t wait to see you! 😀

  31. I am sorry this happened to you. It’s really difficult to wrap our minds around a chronic disability when we are young and healthy. We just don’t expect it to happen to us. I was diagnosed with diabetes in my mid 30’s. I spent days crying and in denial. I have mostly made peace with it now but man, it took a long time. Also second you on the saving lots of extra for potential future health needs. I know I will need medications for the rest of my life and maybe more depending on the course of my disease. I hope the hearing loss is stable and there are no more health surprises in your future!

    1. I’m sorry to hear that about the diabetes – it really hits you like a ton of bricks when a health issue comes out of nowhere. But I’d say in some ways it’s good when it happens earlier if you’re planning for FI, because it makes it clear how important that extra savings is.

  32. Hi There! I hope all is well with you today. I am also happy to know that your ear can still hear though it is not as clear as like before. I was just wondering if they consider some infection even though you don’t have ear discharges or fever. Even if, the important thing is that you are now well. The costs of healthcare are really scary. I felt relieved to know that your emergency fund was more than enough to cover the situation. Because of your experience, we the readers also shared your realization that healthcare is a sudden blow not just to your health but also to your finances. This possible issue is greater in retirement when our body is aging and might experience other kinds of illness. During that time it is also important to know the different options that will help you pay for healthcare expenses. Yes, Medicare and Medicare supplement plans are there, but the question is would it be enough? It is scary to think about it. But for now, we can take all the opportunity we have to save, and plan for sudden healthcare needs. Thank you for sharing your experiences!

    1. The ENT said that it’s possible that the hearing loss was related to the high fever, but as there was nothing physically noticeable to explain it, there’s no way of knowing for sure where it came from. Frustrating to say the least. And yes, it is scary to think about big health expenses and no way to pay for them; why I will be conservative when calculating our future financial needs.

  33. Hey Angela, Thanks for sharing this. I’ve been reluctant to share some of my ailments but you give me courage with your story. I know all about the ENT visits. I’ve been dealing with periodic bouts of tinnitus for about five years now (correlates to having kids – ha!) There’s also an autoimmune condition with my eyes that’s scary, but manageable for now. All that’s to say I’m right there with you – hopeful that financial independence can help at least remove stress as a factor in my (and our) health.

    1. Sorry to hear about the tinnitus – I’m learning it is a SUPER common thing. Which is crazy because I’d not even heard the term before dealing with my own hearing issues. Anything having to do with eyes is really scary. Glad to hear it’s manageable.

  34. That sounds like a really scary experience to lose your hearing like that seemingly out of nowhere! I’m so glad you were able to cover the costs without money being a burden to your health care. Health issues are definitely a big consideration that I think people often miss when thinking about pursuing financial independence, but they’re important to keep in mind. Thank you for sharing this personal story!

    1. Scary and frustrating for sure. Health care issues definitely can mean more than just the ability to cover the monthly plan payment, unfortunately.

  35. Thank you for sharing your story and I am impressed with your grace in handling your situation!

    My parents had a very difficult time sorting out their healthcare coverage plan for their own retirement. Talking to them and hearing stories similar to yours really help drive home the importance of making sure this piece of the puzzle is handled appropriately. Thank you again for sharing!

    1. The grace has been learned over a long year, and I’m not always so at peace with it. But I can’t change the situation at this point, so I’m doing my best to live with it. Sharing does help some.

  36. It’s been my observation that many FIRE plans are a bit light on planning for unexpected things. Over your lifetime, enough unexpected things happen that, on average, they’re not that unexpected—if you know what I mean. I try to build healthy conservatism into my budget for that. Since many FIRE enthusiasts are younger, they generally enjoy good health and don’t have the unexpected expense experience.

    I don’t know a lot about hearing or hearing loss. I good friend of mine resisted getting hearing aids for years and years. When he finally got them, he regretted not pulling the trigger earlier. It was a new world for him. From my own experience, I was struggling at work to fully see computer screens with progressive lenses. When I “splurged” for dedicated computer eyeglasses my life was so much better. It’s okay to invest in your own health and well-being!

    Make sure that you fully investigate any programs that might help with the cost of a hearing aid. In Canada, for example, I would expect that the cost of the aid would be claimable as a medical expense on personal income taxes.

    1. In the US medical expenses aren’t deducted until they’re something like 8-10% of your AGI, which is something we will hopefully not hit because that is A LOT. Plus the tax code changed and the standard deduction is high enough now that we didn’t itemize last year.

      As far as many not planning enough for the unexpected, I would have to agree. I love ournextlife.com especially for that reason, because Tanja writes a LOT about that sort of thing. Love her concept of a two part retirement plan.

Leave a Reply