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

Tom is thrilled, he’s getting a new knee! Hey, the things you look forward to change as you get older. His knee replacement means he will suffer from less pain and be able to get out and about a lot better. So Tom goes in, the operation is successful, and Tom goes home!

That’s when things take a turn.

The knee doesn’t heal as well as it should. Tom finds himself back in the hospital with an infection and will require another surgery. Tom isn’t as excited by this point. The nurses and doctors have come to the conclusion that Tom wasn’t adhering to their advice and guidelines for recovery.

So here’s the thing: it’s not that Tom didn’t want to observe those recovery guidelines. 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.

More hospital visits can be the consequence of hearing loss

The common disadvantages of hearing loss are something that most individuals are already acquainted with: you become more distant from your loved ones, you raise your risk of social isolation, and have an increased risk of developing dementia. But we’re finally beginning to understand some of the less evident disadvantages to hearing loss.

One of those relationships that’s becoming more apparent is that hearing loss can result in an increase in emergency room trips. One study revealed that individuals with hearing loss have a 17% higher danger of needing a visit to the emergency room and a 44% higher chance of readmission later.

What’s the link?

There are a couple of reasons why this could be.

  • Your situational awareness can be impacted negatively by untreated hearing loss. If you’re not aware of your surroundings, you may be more likely to get into a car accident or stub your toe. These sorts of injuries can, of course, land you in the hospital (if you stub your toe hard enough).
  • Your likelihood of readmission substantially increases once you’re in the hospital. Readmission occurs when you’re released from the hospital, spend some time at home, and then need to go back to the hospital. Complications sometimes happen that lead to this readmission. Readmission can also happen because the original problem wasn’t correctly managed or even from a new problem.

Increased chances of readmission

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

  • If you have neglected hearing loss, you might not be able to hear the instructions that your nurses and doctors give you. You won’t be able to properly do your physical therapy, for example, if you fail to hear the guidelines from your physical therapist. This can result in a longer recovery time while you’re in the hospital and also a longer recovery once you’re discharged.
  • If you can’t hear your recovery instructions, you won’t know how to care for yourself as you recover at home. You have a higher likelihood of reinjuring yourself if you don’t even know that you didn’t hear the instructions.

Let’s say, for instance, you’ve recently undergone surgery to replace your knee. Maybe you’re not supposed to take a shower for three weeks but you thought your doctor said three days. And you could find yourself back in the hospital with a serious infection.

Keeping track of your hearing aids

The answer may seem simple at first glance: you just need to use your hearing aids! Sadly, in the early stages of hearing loss, it frequently goes undetected 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 set of hearing aids (and you should), there’s another complication: you might lose them. Hospital trips are usually quite chaotic. Which means there’s a lot of potential to lose your hearing aids. Knowing how to handle hearing aids during a hospital stay can help you remain engaged in your care.

Tips for getting prepared for a hospital visit 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 get yourself ready. Here are a number of basic things you can do:

  • In a hospital setting, always advocate for yourself and ask your family to advocate for you.
  • Communicate to hospital staff about your hearing loss. The more educated you are about your hearing loss, the less chance there is for a miscommunication to happen.
  • Whenever you can, use your hearing aids, and when you aren’t wearing them, make sure to keep them in the case.
  • Don’t forget your case. Having a case for your hearing aid is very important. This will make them a lot easier to keep track of.
  • Be mindful of your battery power. Keep your hearing aid charged and bring spares if necessary.

Communication with the hospital at every phase is key here. Make sure you’re telling your nurses and doctors about your hearing loss.

Hearing is a health concern

So maybe it’s time to stop thinking of hearing health and your general wellness as two completely different things. After all your general health can be substantially impacted by your hearing. Hearing loss is like any other health problem in that it needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

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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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.