When You’re Hospitalized, Hearing Loss Can Lead to Complications

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

Tom is getting a new knee and he’s really jazzed! Look, as you get older, the types of things you get excited about change. He will be capable of moving around more freely and will have less pain with his new knee. So Tom is admitted, the operation is a success, and Tom goes home!

But that’s not the end of it.

The knee doesn’t heal properly. An infection sets in, and Tom winds up back in the hospital for another knee surgery. It’s getting less exciting for Tom by the minute. As the nurses and doctors try to figure out what took place, it becomes evident that Tom wasn’t adhering to his recovery instructions.

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

More hospital visits can be the outcome of hearing loss

By now, you’re likely familiar with the common drawbacks of hearing loss: you have the tendency to socially separate yourself, causing you to become more distant from friends and loved ones, and you raise your risk of developing cognitive decline. But there can be additional, less apparent drawbacks to hearing loss, too, some of which we’re just beginning to really understand.

Increased emergency room trips is one of those relationships that’s becoming more evident. Individuals who struggle with neglected hearing loss have a greater danger of going to the emergency room by 17% and will be 44% more likely to have to be readmitted later on, according to one study.

What’s the link?

There are a couple of reasons why this could be.

  • Once you’re in the hospital, your potential of readmission goes up significantly. But when you’re discharged and go home for a time but then have to go back to the hospital, readmission happens. Complications sometimes happen that result in this readmission. Readmission can also happen because the initial issue wasn’t correctly managed or even from a new issue.
  • Untreated hearing loss can negatively affect your situational awareness. If you’re not aware of your surroundings, you may be more likely to get into a car accident or stub your toe. These kinds of injuries can, of course, send you to the hospital (if you stub your toe hard enough).

Risk of readmission is increased

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

  • If you have neglected hearing loss, you may not be able to hear the instructions that your doctors and nurses give you. For instance, 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 lead to a longer recovery period while you’re in the hospital as well as a longer recovery once you’re discharged.
  • Taking care of yourself after you get home will be nearly impossible if you don’t hear the instructions. 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 instance, you’ve recently had surgery to replace your knee. Your surgeon may tell you not to shower for the next 3 weeks, but you hear 3 days instead. And you might find yourself back in the hospital with a severe infection.

Keeping track of your hearing aids

At first glance, the solution here might seem simple: you just need to use your hearing aids! Sadly, in the early phases of hearing loss, it often goes undetected because of how slowly it progresses. The solution here is to schedule a hearing test with us.

Even if you do have a set of hearing aids (and you should), there’s another complication: you might lose them. It’s often a chaotic scene when you have to go in for a hospital stay. Which means there’s a lot of potential of losing your hearing aids. Knowing how to handle hearing aids during a hospital stay can help you remain involved in your care.

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

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 avoided by knowing how to prepare. There are some simple things you can do:

  • Whenever you can, use your hearing aids, and put them in their case when you’re not wearing them.
  • Be aware of your battery power. Keep your hearing aid charged and bring spares if needed.
  • Make sure that the hospital staff is aware of your hearing loss. Miscommunication will be less likely if they are well informed about your situation.
  • Bring your case with you. It’s very important to have a case for your hearing aids. This will make them a lot easier to keep track of.
  • Urge your loved ones to advocate on your behalf. You should always be advocating for yourself in a hospital setting.

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

Hearing loss can cause health problems

So maybe it’s time to stop thinking of hearing health and your general wellness as two completely different things. After all, your hearing can have a significant impact on your general health. Hearing loss is like any other health issue in that it needs to be treated right away.

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

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.

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