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 super pumped! Hey, the things you get excited about change as you get older. He will be able to move moving around more freely and will experience less pain with this knee replacement. So the surgery is a success and Tom heads home.

But that isn’t the end of it.

The knee doesn’t heal properly. Tom ends up back in the hospital with an infection and will require another surgery. It’s becoming less exciting for Tom by the minute. As the doctors and nurses try to figure out what happened, it becomes evident that Tom wasn’t following his recovery guidelines.

So here’s the thing: it’s not that Tom didn’t want to observe those recovery guidelines. The issue is that he never heard them. It just so happens 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 drawbacks of hearing loss are something that most people are already familiar with: you tend to socially isolate yourself, causing you to become more distant from friends and loved ones, and you raise your danger of developing dementia. But we’re finally beginning to comprehend some of the less apparent drawbacks to hearing loss.

One of those relationships that’s becoming more evident is that hearing loss can result in an increase in emergency room visits. One study revealed that individuals with hearing loss have a 17% higher danger of needing a trip to the emergency room and a 44% higher risk of readmission later.

What’s the link?

There are a couple of reasons why this could be.

  • Untreated hearing loss can negatively affect your situational awareness. 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. Obviously, you could end up in the hospital due to this.
  • Once you’re in the hospital, your likelihood of readmission increases substantially. Readmission happens when you are released from the hospital, spend some time at home, and then need to go back to the hospital. Sometimes this takes place because a complication occurs. In other cases, readmission might result from a new issue, or because the initial problem wasn’t addressed correctly.

Increased risk of readmission

So why are individuals with untreated hearing loss more likely to be readmitted to the hospital? This happens for a couple of reasons:

  • When your doctors and nurses give you guidelines 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. This can lead to a longer recovery duration while you’re in the hospital and also a longer recovery once you’re out.
  • If you can’t hear your recovery directions, you won’t know how to care for yourself as you continue recovering at home. If you’re unable to hear the instructions (and especially if you don’t know you aren’t hearing your instructions properly), you’re more likely to reinjure yourself.

For example, let’s say you’ve recently undergone knee replacement surgery. Perhaps you’re not supposed to take a shower for three weeks but you thought your doctor said three days. Now your wound is at risk of developing a severe infection (one that could put you back at the hospital).

Keeping track of your hearing aids

The answer may seem straight-forward at first glance: you just need to use your hearing aids! Sadly, in the early stages of hearing loss, it frequently goes undetected because of how slowly it progresses. 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 trips are usually really chaotic. So the probability of losing your hearing aid is definitely present. You will be better able to stay involved in your care when you’re in the hospital if you know how to handle your hearing aid.

Tips for getting prepared for a hospital visit when you have hearing loss

If you have hearing loss and you’re going in for a hospital stay, many of the headaches and discomfort can be avoided by knowing how to get yourself ready. Here are a number of basic things you can do:

  • Communicate to hospital staff about your hearing loss. Miscommunication will be less likely if they are well informed about your situation.
  • In a hospital setting, you should always advocate for yourself and ask your family to advocate for you.
  • Whenever you can, wear your hearing aids, and when you aren’t using them, make sure to keep them in the case.
  • Be mindful of your battery power. Bring spares if you need them and charge your hearing aids when you can.
  • Don’t forget your case. It’s very important to have a case for your hearing aids. This will make them much easier to keep track of.

Communication with the hospital at every stage is the trick here. Your doctors and nurses should be told about your hearing loss.

Hearing is a health concern

So perhaps it’s time to stop thinking of hearing health and your overall wellness as two totally 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 addressed right away.

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.

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.