Tom is excited, he’s getting a new knee! Hey, the things you look forward to change as you age. His knee replacement means he will experience less pain and be able to get out and about a lot better. So the surgery is successful and Tom heads home.
That’s when things go wrong.
The knee doesn’t heal as well as it should. 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 attempt to determine what happened, it becomes clear that Tom wasn’t following his recovery instructions.
So here’s the thing: it’s not that Tom didn’t want to follow those recovery guidelines. The issue is that he didn’t hear them. It just so happens that there is a solid connection between hospital visits and hearing loss, so Tom isn’t by himself.
Hearing loss can lead to more hospital visits
By now, you’re probably acquainted with the typical disadvantages of hearing loss: you grow more withdrawn from your loved ones, you raise your risk of social separation, and have an increased risk of developing dementia. But there can be additional, less obvious disadvantages to hearing loss, too, some of which we’re just starting to really understand.
One of those relationships that’s becoming more apparent is that hearing loss can lead to an increase in emergency room visits. Individuals who suffer from untreated hearing loss have a greater risk of going to the emergency room by 17% and will be 44% more likely to have to be readmitted later, as reported by one study.
Is there a link?
There are a couple of reasons why this might be.
- Once you’re in the hospital, your potential of readmission goes up substantially. But when you’re released and go home for a time but then need to go back to the hospital, readmission happens. Sometimes this happens because a complication occurs. Readmission can also occur because the initial issue wasn’t correctly managed or even from a new problem.
- Your situational awareness can be impacted negatively by untreated hearing loss. Anything from a stubbed toe to a car accident will be more likely to happen if you’re not aware of what’s around you. Of course, you could end up in the hospital due to this.
Increased chances of readmission
So why are individuals with untreated hearing loss more likely to be readmitted to the hospital? This occurs for a couple of reasons:
- If you have neglected hearing loss, you might not be able to hear the instructions that your doctors and nurses give you. You won’t be able to properly do your physical therapy, for instance, if you fail to hear the guidelines from your physical therapist. 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 nearly impossible if you don’t hear the instructions. You have a higher chance of reinjuring yourself if you’re not even aware that you didn’t hear the instructions.
Let’s say, for example, you’ve recently undergone surgery to replace your knee. Perhaps you’re not supposed to 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
At first glimpse, the solution here may seem simple: just wear your hearing aids! Regrettably, hearing loss often progresses very gradually, and those with hearing loss may not always realize they are feeling its effects. Coming in to see us for a hearing test 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 visits are usually quite chaotic. So the probability of losing your hearing aid is absolutely present. You will be better able to remain involved in your care when you’re in the hospital if you know how to handle your hearing aid.
Tips for preparing for a hospital visit 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 mindful of your battery power. Keep your hearing aid charged and bring spares if needed.
- Encourage your loved ones to advocate on your behalf. You should always be advocating for yourself in a hospital setting.
- Communicate to hospital staff about your hearing loss. The more informed you are about your hearing loss, the less likelihood there is for a miscommunication to happen.
- Whenever you can, use your hearing aids, and keep them in their case when you aren’t wearing them.
- Take your case with you. Using a case for your hearing aid is very important. This will make them much easier to keep track of.
The trick here is to communicate with the hospital at every stage. Be sure you’re telling your nurses and doctors about your hearing loss.
Hearing is a health concern
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 substantial impact on your general health. Hearing loss is like any other health issue in that it needs to be treated right away.
You don’t have to be like Tom. The next time you find yourself in the hospital, make sure your hearing aids are with you.