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 really jazzed! Hey, the things you look forward to change as you get older. He will be capable of moving around more freely and will experience less pain with this knee replacement. So Tom is admitted, the operation is a success, and Tom heads home!

That’s when things take a turn.

The knee doesn’t heal properly. Tom finds himself back in the hospital with an infection and will require another surgery. Tom isn’t as psyched by this point. The doctors and nurses have come to the conclusion that Tom wasn’t following their advice and instructions for recovery.

So here’s the thing: it’s not that Tom didn’t want to follow those recovery guidelines. The issue is that he never heard them. It just so happens that there is a strong connection between hospital visits and hearing loss, so Tom isn’t by himself.

More hospital visits can be the result of hearing loss

The typical drawbacks of hearing loss are something that most individuals are already familiar with: you have the tendency to socially separate yourself, causing you to become more removed from friends and loved ones, and you raise your risk of developing dementia. But there can be added, less obvious disadvantages to hearing loss, too, some of which we’re just starting to truly understand.

One of those relationships that’s becoming more evident is that hearing loss can result in an increase in emergency room trips. Individuals who struggle with neglected hearing loss have a greater risk of going to the emergency room by 17% and will be 44% more likely to have to be readmitted later on, as reported by one study.

What’s the link?

There are a couple of reasons why this might be.

  • Your likelihood of readmission considerably increases once you’re in the hospital. Readmission occurs when you’re released from the hospital, spend some time at home, and then have to go back to the hospital. Sometimes this happens because a complication occurs. In other cases, readmission might result from a new issue, or because the original issue wasn’t properly addressed.
  • Untreated hearing loss can negatively affect your situational awareness. Anything from a stubbed toe to a car accident will be more likely to occur if you’re not aware of your surroundings. These types of injuries can, obviously, land you in the hospital (if you stub your toe hard enough).

Risk of readmission increases

Why is readmission more likely for people who have neglected hearing loss? This happens for a couple of reasons:

  • When your nurses and doctors give you guidelines you may not hear them very well because of your untreated hearing loss. For example, if you can’t hear 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. This can result in a longer recovery duration while you’re in the hospital and also a longer recovery once you’re out.
  • If you’re unable to hear your recovery directions, you won’t know how to care for yourself as you continue recovering at home. If you can’t hear the instructions (and especially if you’re not aware that you aren’t hearing your instructions properly), you’re more likely to reinjure yourself.

For example, let’s pretend you’ve recently had knee replacement surgery. 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 serious infection (one that could land you back at the hospital).

Keeping track of your hearing aids

At first glance, the solution here may seem simple: just wear your hearing aids! Sadly, in the early phases of hearing loss, it frequently goes undetected because of how slowly it advances. The solution here is to make an appointment for a hearing exam with us.

Even if you do have a pair of hearing aids (and you should), there’s another situation: you might lose them. Hospital visits are often quite chaotic. Which means there’s lots of potential of losing your hearing aids. You will be better able to remain involved in your care when you’re in the hospital if you know how to handle your hearing aid.

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

If you’re dealing with hearing loss and you’re going in for a hospital stay, a lot of the headaches and discomfort can be prevented by knowing how to get yourself ready. Here are a number of basic things you can do:

  • Don’t forget to bring 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.
  • Make sure that the hospital staff is aware of your hearing loss. The more educated you are about your hearing loss, the less likelihood there is for a miscommunication to happen.
  • Whenever you can, use your hearing aids, and when you aren’t wearing them, make certain to keep them in the case.
  • In a hospital environment, 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 needed.

Communication with the hospital at every stage is key here. Your doctors and nurses should 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 linked. After all, your hearing can have a substantial affect on your overall health. In a lot of ways, hearing loss is the same as a broken arm, in that each of these health issues calls for prompt treatment in order to prevent possible complications.

You don’t need to be like Tom. Keep your hearing aids close the next time you need to go in for a hospital stay.

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