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! Look, as you grow older, the kinds of things you look forward to 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.

Unfortunately, the healing process doesn’t go as it should. Tom ends up back in the hospital with an infection and will need another surgery. It’s getting less exciting for Tom by the minute. The doctors and nurses have come to the conclusion that Tom wasn’t adhering to their advice and instructions for recovery.

Tom didn’t purposely ignore the guidelines. The problem is that he didn’t hear them. It just so happens that there is a solid link between hospital visits and hearing loss, so Tom isn’t by himself.

Hearing loss can lead to more hospital visits

By now, you’re likely familiar with the typical disadvantages of hearing loss: you become more distant from your loved ones, you increase your risk of social isolation, and have an increased risk of developing dementia. But we’re finally starting to understand some of the less apparent disadvantages to hearing loss.

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

Is there a connection?

This could be the case for a couple of reasons.

  • Once you’re in the hospital, your potential of readmission increases significantly. 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 result in this readmission. Readmission can also occur because the original problem wasn’t properly managed or even from a new problem.
  • Your situational awareness can be affected negatively by untreated hearing loss. 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.

Risk of readmission is increased

Why is readmission more likely for individuals who have untreated hearing loss? There are a couple of reasons for this:

  • When your doctors and nurses give you instructions you may not hear them very well because of your untreated hearing loss. For example, if you can’t understand what your physical therapist is telling you to do, you will be unable to do your physical therapy treatment as well as you otherwise might. Whether you’re still in the hospital or at home, your recovery time could be greatly increased.
  • 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 can’t 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 had 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. 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

The answer might seem straight-forward 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 advances. Coming in to see us for a hearing test is the solution here.

Even after you’ve taken the steps and invested in a pair of hearing aids, there’s still the possibility of losing them. Hospital trips are usually really chaotic. So the possibility of losing your hearing aid is definitely present. You will be better able to stay engaged in your care when you’re in the hospital if you know how to handle your hearing aid.

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

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

  • Whenever you can, wear your hearing aids, and keep them in their case when you’re not using them.
  • Make sure that the hospital staff is aware of your hearing loss. Miscommunication will be less likely if they are well notified about your situation.
  • In a hospital setting, always advocate for yourself and ask your loved ones to advocate for you.
  • Be mindful of your battery power. Bring spares if you need them and charge your hearing aids when you can.
  • Take your case with you. It’s really important to have a case for your hearing aids. They will be able to be better taken care of that way.

The key here is to communicate with the hospital at every stage. Be certain that you’re telling your nurses and doctors about your hearing loss.

Hearing is a health issue

So maybe it’s time to stop thinking of hearing health and your general wellness as two totally different things. 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 requires prompt treatment in order to prevent possible complications.

The power 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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