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Female doctor communicating with older man who has hearing loss in wheelchair examining reports at the hospital corridor.

Tom is getting a brand new knee and he’s super pumped! Look, as you get older, the types of things you get excited about change. His knee replacement means he will feel less pain and be able to get around a lot better. So the surgery is successful and Tom heads home.

But that isn’t the end of it.

The knee doesn’t heal as well as it should. An infection takes hold, and Tom winds up back in the hospital for another knee surgery. It’s becoming less thrilling for Tom by the minute. As the doctors and nurses try to figure out what occurred, it becomes evident that Tom wasn’t following his recovery guidelines.

So here’s the thing: it isn’t that Tom didn’t want to observe those recovery instructions. Tom actually never even heard the instructions. Tom can take some comfort in the fact that he’s not alone: there’s a strong connection between hospital visits and hearing loss.

Hearing loss can contribute to more hospital visits

At this point, you’re likely familiar with the typical drawbacks of hearing loss: you become more withdrawn from your loved ones, you increase your risk of social isolation, and have an increased danger of getting dementia. But we’re finally starting to understand some of the less apparent drawbacks to hearing loss.

Increased emergency room visits is one of those relationships that’s becoming more apparent. Individuals who suffer from untreated hearing loss have a higher risk of taking a trip to the emergency room by 17% and will be 44% more likely to need to be readmitted later, according to one study.

Is there a link?

There are a couple of reasons why this might be.

  • Once you’re in the hospital, your likelihood of readmission goes up considerably. But when you’re discharged and go home for a time but then need to go back to the hospital, readmission happens. Complications sometimes occur that lead to this readmission. In other cases, readmission may result from a new issue, or because the initial issue wasn’t addressed correctly.
  • Neglected hearing loss can negatively impact your situational awareness. If you aren’t aware of your surroundings, you might be more likely to have a car accident or stub your toe. These kinds of injuries can, obviously, land you in the hospital (if you stub your toe hard enough).

Increased chances of readmission

So why are those with neglected hearing loss more likely to be readmitted to the hospital? This happens for a couple of reasons:

  • When your doctors and nurses give you guidelines you may not hear them very well because of your neglected hearing loss. For instance, if you can’t understand what your physical therapist is telling you to do, you will be unable to perform your physical therapy treatment as well as you otherwise might. Whether you’re still in the hospital or at home, your recovery period could be greatly increased.
  • If you can’t hear your recovery directions, you won’t know how to take care of yourself as you recover at home. You have a higher chance of reinjuring yourself if you don’t even know that you didn’t hear the instructions.

For instance, let’s pretend you’ve recently undergone knee replacement surgery. Your surgeon might tell you not to shower for the next 3 weeks, but you hear 3 days instead. Now your wound is at risk of getting a severe infection (one that could put you back at the hospital).

Keeping track of your hearing aids

The solution might seem simple at first glance: just wear your hearing aids! Sadly, in the early phases of hearing loss, it frequently goes unnoticed because of how gradually it progresses. Coming in to see us for a hearing test is the solution here.

Even after you’ve taken the steps and invested in a set of hearing aids, there’s still the possibility of losing them. It’s often a chaotic scene when you have to go in for a hospital stay. Which means there’s lots of potential of losing your hearing aids. You will be better able to stay involved in your care when you’re in the hospital if you know how to deal with your hearing aid.

Tips for getting prepared for a hospital stay when you have hearing loss

If you have hearing loss and you’re going in for a hospital stay, many of the headaches and discomfort can be avoided by knowing how to prepare. Here are a few basic things you can do:

  • Whenever you can, wear your hearing aids, and when you aren’t wearing them, make sure to keep them in the case.
  • Communicate to hospital staff about your hearing loss. Miscommunication will be less likely if they are well notified about your situation.
  • Bring your case with you. It’s really important to use a case for your hearing aids. They will be able to be better taken care of that way.
  • In a hospital setting, you should always advocate for yourself and ask your loved ones to advocate for you.
  • Keep your eye on your battery’s charge. Keep your hearing aid charged and bring spares if necessary.

The key here is to communicate with the hospital at every stage. Your doctors and nurses need to be made aware of your hearing loss.

Hearing loss can cause health issues

It’s important to recognize that your hearing health and your general health are closely related. After all, your hearing can have a considerable impact on your overall health. In a lot of ways, hearing loss is no different than a broken arm, in that each of these health issues calls for prompt treatment in order to prevent possible complications.

The power to avoid Tom’s fate is in your hands. The next time you find yourself in the hospital, make sure your hearing aids are with you.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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