Tom is excited, he’s getting a brand new knee! Hey, the things you look forward to change as you get older. He will be able to move moving around more freely and will experience less pain with his new knee. So Tom goes in, the operation is a success, and Tom goes home!
That’s when things go wrong.
Sadly, the healing process doesn’t go very well. An infection sets in, and Tom ends up back in the hospital for another knee surgery. Tom is not as excited by this point. The nurses and doctors have come to the realization that Tom wasn’t following their advice and instructions for recovery.
Tom didn’t purposely deviate from the guidelines. The issue is that he didn’t hear them. Tom can take some comfort in the fact that he’s not alone: there’s a strong link between hospital visits and hearing loss.
Hearing loss can lead to more hospital visits
At this point, you’re probably acquainted with the typical disadvantages of hearing loss: you have the tendency to socially separate yourself, causing you to become more distant from friends and family, and you increase your risk of developing dementia. But there can be additional, less apparent disadvantages to hearing loss, too, some of which we’re just starting to actually understand.
Increased emergency room trips is one of those relationships that’s becoming more evident. People who struggle with neglected hearing loss have a greater risk of taking a trip to the emergency room by 17% and will be 44% more likely to have to be readmitted later, according to one study.
Is there a link?
This might be the case for a couple of reasons.
- Untreated hearing loss can negatively affect your situational awareness. If you’re not aware of your surroundings, you may be more likely to have a car accident or stub your toe. Obviously, you could wind up in the hospital because of this.
- Your potential of readmission significantly increases once you’re in the hospital. But when you’re released and go home for a time but then have to go back to the hospital, readmission happens. Complications sometimes happen that lead to this readmission. Readmission can also occur because the original problem wasn’t correctly managed or even from a new problem.
Increased risk of readmission
So why are individuals with untreated hearing loss more likely to be readmitted to the hospital? There are a couple of reasons for this:
- If you have untreated hearing loss, you may not be able to hear the instructions that your doctors and nurses give you. You won’t be able to effectively do your physical therapy, for example, if you fail to hear the instructions from your physical therapist. Whether you’re still in the hospital or at home, your recovery period could be greatly increased.
- If you can’t hear your recovery directions, you won’t know how to take care of yourself as you continue recovering at home. If you can’t hear the instructions (and particularly if you don’t know you aren’t hearing your instructions properly), you’re more likely to reinjure yourself.
For example, let’s pretend you’ve recently undergone knee replacement surgery. Your surgeon may tell you not to take a shower for the next 3 weeks, but you hear 3 days instead. Now your wound is at risk of developing a serious infection (one that could land you back at the hospital).
Keeping track of your hearing aids
At first glimpse, the answer here might seem simple: just wear your hearing aids! Regrettably, hearing loss often advances very gradually, and individuals 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 after you’ve taken the steps and invested in a set of hearing aids, there’s still the possibility of losing them. Hospital visits are often really chaotic. Which means there’s a lot of potential to lose your hearing aids. You will be better able to remain engaged 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 stay 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 prepare. There are some simple things you can do:
- 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 occur.
- Keep your eye on your battery’s charge. Bring spares if you need them and charge your hearing aids when you can.
- Whenever you can, use your hearing aids, and put them in their case when you’re not using them.
- In a hospital environment, you should always advocate for yourself and ask your loved ones to advocate for you.
- 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.
Communication with the hospital at every stage is key here. Your doctors and nurses should be told about your hearing loss.
Hearing is a health concern
It’s important to realize that your hearing health and your overall health are closely linked. After all your general health can be significantly affected by your hearing. Hearing loss is like any other health problem in that it needs to be treated right away.
You don’t need to be like Tom. The next time you find yourself in the hospital, make certain your hearing aids are with you.