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

Tom is excited, he’s getting a brand new knee! Hey, the things you get excited about change as you age. He will be able to move moving around more freely and will have less pain with his new knee. So Tom is admitted, the operation is a success, and Tom heads home!

That’s when things go wrong.

The knee doesn’t heal properly. An infection sets in, and Tom winds up back in the hospital for another knee surgery. It’s becoming less exciting for Tom by the minute. As the doctors and nurses try to determine what happened, it becomes clear that Tom wasn’t adhering to his recovery guidelines.

So here’s the thing: it isn’t that Tom didn’t want to follow those recovery instructions. Tom actually never even heard the instructions. It just so happens that there is a strong link between hospital visits and hearing loss, so Tom isn’t alone.

Hearing loss can contribute to more hospital visits

The typical disadvantages of hearing loss are something that most people are already acquainted with: you grow more withdrawn from your loved ones, you increase your risk of social isolation, and have an increased danger of developing cognitive decline. But there can be added, less apparent disadvantages to hearing loss, too, some of which we’re just starting to actually understand.

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

Is there a connection?

There are a couple of reasons why this might be.

  • Neglected hearing loss can negatively affect your situational awareness. Anything from a stubbed toe to a car accident will be more likely to take place if you’re not aware of what’s around you. Of course, you could end up in the hospital because of this.
  • Once you’re in the hospital, your chance of readmission goes up significantly. But when you’re discharged and go home for a time but then need to go back to the hospital, readmission occurs. Complications sometimes occur that lead to this readmission. Readmission can also happen because the initial problem wasn’t properly managed or even from a new issue.

Risk of readmission increases

So why are individuals with neglected hearing loss more likely to be readmitted to the hospital? There are a couple of reasons for this:

  • If you have untreated hearing loss, you may not be able to hear the instructions that your doctors and nurses give you. You won’t be able to effectively do your physical therapy, for example, if you fail to hear the guidelines from your physical therapist. This can lead to a longer recovery period while you’re in the hospital and also a longer recovery once you’re discharged.
  • If you’re unable to hear your recovery instructions, you won’t know how to take care of yourself as you continue recovering at home. If you’re unable to hear the instructions (and especially if you don’t know you aren’t hearing your instructions properly), you’re more likely to reinjure yourself.

Let’s say, for example, you’ve recently undergone surgery to replace your knee. Perhaps you’re not supposed to take a shower for three weeks but you thought your doctor said three days. Now your wound is in danger of getting a severe infection (one that could put you back at the hospital).

Keeping track of your hearing aids

At first glimpse, the solution here might seem basic: you just need to use your hearing aids! Sadly, in the early stages of hearing loss, it frequently goes unnoticed because of how gradually it progresses. Coming in to see us for a hearing exam is the solution here.

Even if you do have a pair of hearing aids (and you should), there’s another situation: you might lose them. Hospital trips are frequently very chaotic. Which means there’s lots of potential of losing your hearing aids. Knowing how to handle hearing aids during a hospital stay can help you remain engaged in your care.

Tips for taking your hearing aids with you during a hospital stay

Knowing how to prepare for a hospital stay when you have hearing loss can avert a lot of headaches (and other discomfort) in the future. There are some easy things you can do:

  • Keep your eye on your battery’s charge. Bring spares if you need them and charge your hearing aids when you can.
  • Don’t forget your case. It’s really important to use a case for your hearing aids. This will make them a lot easier to keep track of.
  • Encourage your loved ones to advocate for you. You should always be advocating for yourself in a hospital setting.
  • Whenever you can, wear your hearing aids, and when you aren’t using them, make sure to keep them in the case.
  • Make sure that the hospital staff is aware of your hearing loss. The more educated you are about your hearing loss, the less chance there is for a miscommunication to occur.

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

Hearing loss can cause health problems

It’s important to recognize that your hearing health and your overall health are closely linked. After all your general health can be significantly impacted by your hearing. In a lot of ways, hearing loss is no different than a broken arm, in that each of these health problems requires prompt treatment in order to prevent possible complications.

You don’t have to be like Tom. The next time you find yourself in the hospital, make certain your hearing aids are with you.

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