Tom is getting a brand new knee and he’s super pumped! Hey, the things you get excited about change as you age. His knee replacement means he will experience less pain and be able to get around a lot better. So Tom is admitted, the operation is successful, and Tom heads home!
That’s when things go wrong.
The knee doesn’t heal properly. Tom ends up back in the hospital with an infection and will need another surgery. It’s getting less thrilling for Tom by the minute. As the nurses and doctors try to figure out what occurred, it becomes clear that Tom wasn’t following his recovery instructions.
Tom didn’t purposely deviate from the guidelines. The problem is that he didn’t hear them. It turns out that there is a solid connection between hospital visits and hearing loss, so Tom isn’t alone.
Hearing loss can lead to more hospital visits
The common disadvantages of hearing loss are something that most people are already familiar with: you have the tendency to socially separate yourself, causing you to become more removed from friends and loved ones, and you raise your risk of developing dementia. But there can be added, less obvious drawbacks to hearing loss, too, some of which we’re just starting to really understand.
Increased emergency room trips is one of those relationships that’s becoming more apparent. One study found 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 on.
What’s the link?
This could be the case for a couple of reasons.
- 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 happen if you aren’t aware of your surroundings. Of course, you could wind up in the hospital due to this.
- Your possibility of readmission considerably increases once you’re in the hospital. But when you’re discharged and go home for a time but then need to go back to the hospital, readmission happens. Sometimes this takes place because a complication occurs. Readmission can also occur because the original issue wasn’t correctly managed or even from a new issue.
Increased risk of readmission
Why is readmission more likely for people who have neglected hearing loss? 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. For example, if you can’t hear 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. This can result in a longer recovery period while you’re in the hospital and also a longer recovery once you’re discharged.
- Taking care of yourself after you get home will be practically impossible if you don’t hear the instructions. You have a higher likelihood of reinjuring yourself if you don’t even know that you didn’t hear the instructions.
For example, let’s pretend you’ve recently had knee replacement surgery. Perhaps you’re not supposed to 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
At first glimpse, the solution here might seem simple: you just need to use your hearing aids! Sadly, in the early stages of hearing loss, it often goes undetected because of how gradually it develops. 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 situation: you could lose them. Hospital trips are often very chaotic. Which means there’s lots of potential to lose your hearing aids. Knowing how to handle hearing aids during a hospital stay can help you remain involved in your care.
Tips for prepping 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, many of the headaches and discomfort can be avoided by knowing how to prepare. Here are a few basic things you can do:
- Be aware of your battery power. Bring spares if you need them and charge your hearing aids when you can.
- 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.
- Wear your hearing aids when you can, and when you aren’t wearing them, make sure to keep them in the case.
- Urge your loved ones to advocate on your behalf. You should always be advocating on your own behalf in a hospital setting.
- Bring your case with you. Using a case for your hearing aid is very important. They will be able to be better cared for that way.
The key here is to communicate with the hospital at every phase. Your doctors and nurses should be told about your hearing loss.
Hearing is a health issue
It’s important to understand that your hearing health and your overall health are closely related. After all, your hearing can have a substantial affect on your general health. Hearing loss is like any other health issue in that it needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
You don’t need to be like Tom. The next time you find yourself in the hospital, be certain that your hearing aids are nearby.