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 get excited about change as you get older. His knee replacement means he will feel less pain and be able to get out and about a lot better. So Tom is admitted, the operation is successful, and Tom heads home!

That’s when things take a turn.

The knee doesn’t heal as well as it should. An infection sets in, and Tom ends up back in the hospital for another knee surgery. Tom isn’t as excited by this point. As the nurses and doctors try to determine what occurred, it becomes clear that Tom wasn’t following his recovery instructions.

So here’s the thing: it isn’t that Tom didn’t want to follow those recovery instructions. The issue is that he never heard them. Tom can take some comfort in the fact that he’s not alone: there’s a strong link between hearing loss and hospital visits.

More hospital visits can be the outcome of hearing loss

The common drawbacks of hearing loss are something that most individuals are already acquainted with: you grow more distant from your loved ones, you raise your risk of social separation, and have an increased risk of getting dementia. But there can be additional, less apparent drawbacks to hearing loss, too, some of which we’re just starting to truly understand.

Increased emergency room visits is one of those relationships that’s becoming more clear. One study discovered that people with hearing loss have a 17% greater risk of requiring a visit to the emergency room and a 44% higher chance of readmission later.

What’s the connection?

This could be the case for a couple of reasons.

  • Your situational awareness can be impacted negatively by neglected hearing loss. Anything from a stubbed toe to a car accident will be more likely to occur if you’re not aware of your surroundings. Obviously, you could end up in the hospital due to this.
  • Your potential of readmission significantly increases once you’re in the hospital. Readmission occurs when you are discharged from the hospital, spend some time at home, and then need to go back to the hospital. Complications sometimes happen that result in this readmission. Readmission can also occur because the initial issue wasn’t correctly managed or even from a new issue.

Chances of readmission increases

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

  • If you have neglected hearing loss, you may not be able to hear the instructions that your doctors and nurses give you. For example, if you can’t hear what your physical therapist is telling you to do, you won’t be able to perform your physical therapy treatment as well as you otherwise would. This can result in a longer recovery duration while you’re in the hospital as well as a longer recovery once you’re discharged.
  • Caring for yourself after you get home will be practically impossible if you don’t hear the guidelines. 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.

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 land you back at the hospital).

Keeping track of your hearing aids

The solution might seem simple at first glance: you just need to wear your hearing aids! Unfortunately, hearing loss usually develops very slowly, and those with hearing loss may not always realize they are feeling its effects. 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 usually rather 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 deal with your hearing aid.

Tips for preparing 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 few basic things you can do:

  • Keep your eye on your battery’s charge. Keep your hearing aid charged and bring spares if necessary.
  • Take your case with you. It’s very important to use a case for your hearing aids. This will make them much easier to keep track of.
  • Communicate to hospital staff about your hearing loss. Miscommunication will be less likely if they are well notified about your situation.
  • Urge your loved ones to advocate on your behalf. You should always be advocating for yourself in a hospital setting.
  • Whenever you can, wear your hearing aids, and when you aren’t wearing them, make certain to keep them in the case.

The key here is to communicate with the hospital at every stage. Your doctors and nurses should be told about your hearing loss.

Hearing loss can cause health problems

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

The ability to avoid Tom’s fate is in your hands. Keep your hearing aids close the next time you have to go in for a hospital stay.

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