Savvy Senior

By Jim Miller | October 1, 2022

Free Online Hearing Tests You Can Take at Home

Dear Savvy Senior,

Can you recommend any good online hearing tests? My husband has hearing loss, but I can’t get him to go in and get his hearing checked, so I thought a simple online test could help him recognize he has a problem. What can you tell me?

Loud Talking Linda

Dear Linda,

There’s actually a growing number of very good online and app-based hearing tests available that will let your husband check his hearing on his own. These tests are a quick and convenient option for the millions of Americans that have mild to moderate hearing loss but often ignore it, or don’t want to go through the hassle or expense of visiting an audiologist for a hearing exam.

Who Should Test?

Hearing loss for most people develops gradually over many years of wear and tear, which is the reason many people don’t realize they actually have a hearing problem.

Anyone who has difficulty hearing or understanding what people say, especially in noisier environments or over the phone. Or, if you need a higher volume of music or TV than other people, should take a few minutes to test their hearing.

Self-Hearing Tests

Online and app-based hearing tests can serve as a great screening tool. They are not meant to be a diagnosis, but rather to give you an idea of how bad your hearing loss is and what can be done about it.

For most do-it-yourself hearing tests, you’ll be advised to wear ear headphones or earbuds and sit in a quiet spot.

You also need to know that there are two different type of tests available. One type is known as pure-tone testing, where tones are played in decreasing volumes to determine your specific level of hearing loss. And the other type is known as speech-in-noise or digits-in-noise (DIN) where you’ll be asked to identify words, numbers, or phrases amid background noise.

Where to Test

If your husband uses a smartphone or tablet, two of my favorite app-based hearing tests are the hearWHO app created by the World Health Organization, and the Mimi Hearing Test app. Both apps are free to use and are available through the App Store and Google Play.

HearWHO allows users to check their hearing status and monitor it over time using a DIN test, while Mimi uses pure-tone and masked threshold tests to give you a detailed picture of your hearing abilities.

There are also a wide variety of online hearing tests your husband can take on a computer.

Some top online tests – all offered by hearing aid manufacturers – for speech-in-noise or DIN tests can be accessed at ReSound ( and Mircle Ear (

And some good online hearing tests for pure-tone testing are available by Signia (; Ergo (; and MD Hearing Aid (

All of these hearing tests are completely free to use and take less than five minutes to complete.

What to do with Results

If the tests indicate your husband has hearing loss, it’s best to think of that as a starting point. He should take results to his doctor or an audiologist for further evaluation.

Many insurance providers and Medicare Advantage plans cover routine hearing exams, however original Medicare does not.

If his hearing loss is mild to moderate, he should look into the new over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids, which are available this fall online and at retailers like Best Buy, Walgreens and CVS.

OTC hearing aids don’t require a prescription or medical examination for purchase and they’re much more affordable than traditional hearing aids you buy through an audiologist or a licensed hearing instrument specialist.

Auto aids that make driving easier and safer

Dear Savvy Senior,

Do you know of any car gadgets that can help older drivers? I drive a 12-year-old car and have arthritis in my neck, back and knees which limits my mobility making it more difficult to get in and out of the car and look over my shoulder to backup.

— Almost 80

Dear Almost,

To help keep older drivers safe and extend their driving years, there are a number of inexpensive products you can purchase that can easily be added to your vehicle to help with many different needs. Here are some popular auto aids to consider.

Entry and Exit Aids

For mobility challenged seniors who have a difficult time entering and exiting a vehicle – especially cars that are low to the ground or high vehicles such as SUV’s or pickup truck’s – there are a variety of support handles and special seat cushions that can help.

Some examples include the Stander ( “HandyBar” ($40), which is a portable support grab bar that inserts into the U-shaped striker plate on the doorframe, and the “CarCaddie” ($20), a nylon support handle that buckles around the top of the door window frame. Stander also has an “Auto Swivel Seat Cushion” ($40), that rotates 360 degrees to help drivers and passengers pivot their body into and out of their vehicle.

Rear Vision Improvements

To help those with neck and back range of motion problems, which makes looking over the shoulder to back-up or merge into traffic difficult, there are special mirrors you can add as well as back-up cameras.

To widen rear visibility and eliminate blind spots, Verivue Mirrors ( offers the popular “Universal 12-Inch Panoramic Rearview Mirror” ($13) that clips on to existing rearview mirrors, along with a variety of “Blind Spot Mirrors” ($5 for two), which are small convex mirrors that stick to the corner of the sideview mirrors.

Another helpful device is the “Auto-vox CS-2 Wireless Backup Camera Kit” ($120, This comes with a night vision camera that attaches to the rear license plate, and a small monitor that mounts to the dash or windshield. When the vehicle is in reverse, it sends live images wirelessly to the monitor so you can see what’s behind you.

Seat Belt Extenders

For plus-sized people or those with mobility problems, there are seat belt extension products that can make buckling up a little easier. For example, Seat Belt Extender Pros ( offers vehicle-specific “Seat Belt Extenders” ($13 to $26) that fit into the seat belt buckle receiver to add a few inches of length, making them easier to fasten. They also sell a “Seat Belt Grabber Handle” ($8), which is a rubber extension handle that attaches to the seat belt strap to make it easier to reach.

Gripping Devices

If you have hand arthritis that makes gripping difficult or painful, consider the “SEG Direct Steering Wheel Cover” ($17) that fits over the steering wheel to make it larger, softer and easier to grip. And for help twisting open tight gas caps, the “Gas Cap & Oil Cap Opener by Gascapoff” ($17) is a long-handled tool that works like a wrench to loosen and tighten gas caps.

Many of these products can be found in your local auto supply stores or online at the manufacturer’s website or at Just type the product name in the search bar to find them.

Professional Help

If you need more assistance, consider contacting a driver rehabilitation specialist who are trained to evaluate elderly drivers and provide safety and driving equipment suggestions.

In addition to the types of aids mentioned in this column, there’s also a range of adaptive driving equipment that can be professionally installed on a vehicle – like swing-out swivel seats, pedal extenders, hand controls and more – to help people with various disabilities. To locate a driver rehabilitation specialist in your area, visit or

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

Home sharing a growing trend among baby boomers

Dear Savvy Senior,

I saw a news segment on television a few months ago about home sharing programs for seniors and would like to learn more. I’m 68, divorced, and am interested in renting out a room in my house to help make ends meet. What can you tell me?

— Interested Boomer

Dear Boomer,

Because of inflation and rising housing costs a growing number of baby boomers are opting to rent out a spare room in their house as a way to generate some extra income, and for some, increase companionship. To find a good fit, older homeowners often turn to “home sharing programs” that will match an empty nester with someone needing affordable housing.

But be aware that home sharing isn’t for everyone. You need to carefully consider the pros and cons of renting out a spare room in your house and make a list of what you want and don’t want in a housemate/renter.

To help you figure all this out, a good resource is, a website dedicated to understanding the home sharing concept. They offer various articles, online lessons and resource books that can help you determine if this is a good option for you, and if so, how to find and choose a good housemate.

Home Sharing Tools

If you decide to proceed in finding a housemate/renter, a good first step is to seek out a home sharing program in your area.

Home sharing programs, usually nonprofits, screen both homeowners and renters. They check references, handle background checks and consider lifestyle criteria when making matches. They can also help you with the leasing agreement that the renter would sign that covers detailed issues like smoking, pets, chores, overnight guests, use of common rooms, quiet hours, etc.

Most home sharing programs are free to use or request a small donation. Others, however, may charge the homeowner and potential renter a fee for this service. To look for a home sharing program in your area visit the National Shared Housing Resource Center website at

If you don’t find a program that serves your area, you can also search for housemates through an online home sharing service like Or, if you’d rather have a younger housemate that can help out with some household chores, consider This is an online home sharing agency, available in a few select communities, that matches young renters with older adults looking to supplement their incomes and share their space.

If you don’t have any luck with any of these home sharing sites, put a call in to your Area Aging Agency (call 800-677-1116 for contact information) who may be able to offer assistance or refer you to local agencies or nonprofit organizations that offer shared housing help.

You can also check with your local senior or community center, or local church you attend to see if you can post an ad on their bulletin board or in their newsletter. Or you can advertise in your local newspaper or online at sites like or

If you find someone on your own that you’re interested in renting to, ask the prospective renter to fill out a rental application (see to download and print one for free) and run a tenant screening and background check, and then call their references. Tenant screening/background checks can be done at sites like or

How to find an old 401(k)

Dear Savvy Senior,

How do I go about looking for an old former company 401(k) plan that I think I contributed money to many years ago, but forgot about until recently?

  • Retired in Rochester

Dear Retired,

If you think you may have lost track of an old 401(k) retirement account, you aren’t alone. As Americans move from job to job, many leave scraps of their company sponsored 401(k) plans behind, believing they’ll deal with it later, but never do.

In fact, according to a recent study, Americans have left behind around $1.35 trillion in retirement accounts that are connected to previous employers. To help you look for an old 401(k), here are some suggestions along with some free resources that can help you search.

Call Your Former Employer

The first way to look for an old 401(k) account is to contact your former employer’s human resources department. Ask them to check their plan records to see if you ever participated in their 401(k) plan, and if so, how much it’s worth. You’ll need to provide them your Social Security number and the dates you worked for them.

If you need help tracking down your former employer because it may have moved, changed owners or merged with another firm, help is available from the Labor Department (, 866-444-3272) and the Pension Rights Center and Pension Action Center (

If there was more than $5,000 in your 401(k) account when you left, there’s a good chance that your money is still in your workplace account.

Your former employer should be able to either get you the forms necessary to roll over your retirement money to a different 401(k) or to an IRA, or to give you contact information for any outside financial institution overseeing the plan on your employer’s behalf. By following the appropriate instructions, you’ll be able to move your retirement money where you want.

But if your old 401(k) account was under $5,000, your former employer has the option of transferring the money to a default individual retirement account without your consent. Your cash may go into an interest-bearing, federally insured bank account or to your state’s unclaimed property fund.

If this is the case, and your old employer cannot tell you where your 401(k) funds were sent, you’ll need to track it down yourself.

Searching Tools

While there’s no federally run national database where you can look for all the retirement accounts that are associated with your name, a good place to start your search is with the Department of Labor’s abandoned plan database at And FreeErisa (, which maintains a rundown of employee benefit plan paperwork.

There’s also the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits at This site works like a “missed connections” service whereby companies register with the site to help facilitate a reunion between ex-employees and their retirement money. But not every company is registered with this site.

To see if your 401(k) money was turned over to the state’s unclaimed property fund, use the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators website ( to search. Or you can do a multi-state search in 39 states at

Or, if you think you were covered under a traditional pension plan that was disbanded, call the U.S. Pension Guaranty Corp. at 800-326-5678, or use the trusteed plan search tool at

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.