Tom is getting a brand new knee and he’s super pumped! Look, as you age, the kinds of things you look forward to change. His knee replacement means he will feel less pain and be able to get around a lot better. So the surgery is a success and Tom goes home.
That’s when things go wrong.
The knee doesn’t heal properly. An infection sets in, and Tom ends up back in the hospital for another knee surgery. Tom is not as psyched by this point. As the doctors and nurses try to determine what took place, it becomes evident that Tom wasn’t following his recovery instructions.
Tom didn’t purposely ignore the instructions. Tom actually never even heard the instructions. It turns out that there is a solid connection between hospital visits and hearing loss, so Tom isn’t alone.
More hospital visits can be the consequence of hearing loss
The common disadvantages of hearing loss are something that most people are already familiar with: you grow more withdrawn from your loved ones, you increase your risk of social separation, and have an increased danger of getting cognitive decline. But there can be added, 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 clear is that hearing loss can result in an increase in emergency room visits. One study revealed that individuals with hearing loss have a 17% greater danger of requiring a trip to the emergency room and a 44% increased risk of readmission later.
What’s the link?
This could be the case for a couple of reasons.
- Untreated hearing loss can negatively impact your situational awareness. Anything from a stubbed toe to a car accident will be more likely to happen if you’re not aware of your surroundings. These kinds of injuries can, obviously, land you in the hospital (if you stub your toe hard enough).
- Your chance of readmission considerably increases once you’re in the hospital. Readmission happens when you are released from the hospital, spend some time at home, and then have to go back to the hospital. Sometimes this takes place because a complication occurs. In other cases, readmission may be the outcome of a new problem, or because the initial problem wasn’t properly addressed.
Increased risk of readmission
So why are people with neglected hearing loss more likely to be readmitted to the hospital? There are a couple of reasons for this:
- When your nurses and doctors give you guidelines you might not hear them very well because of your untreated hearing loss. You won’t be able to properly do your physical therapy, for instance, if you fail to hear the instructions from your physical therapist. Whether you’re still in the hospital or at home, your recovery time could be greatly increased.
- Caring for yourself after you get home will be nearly impossible if you don’t hear the instructions. If you’re unable to hear the instructions (and especially if you’re not aware that you aren’t hearing your instructions properly), you’re more likely to reinjure yourself.
For instance, let’s pretend you’ve recently undergone knee replacement surgery. Your surgeon might tell you not to shower for the next 3 weeks, but you hear 3 days instead. Now your wound is in danger of getting a serious infection (one that could put you back at the hospital).
Keeping track of your hearing aids
The answer might seem simple at first glimpse: you just need to wear your hearing aids! Sadly, in the early phases of hearing loss, it often goes unnoticed 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 pair of hearing aids (and you should), there’s another complication: you might lose them. Hospital visits are usually rather chaotic. So the possibility of losing your hearing aid is definitely present. Knowing how to handle hearing aids during a hospital stay can help you remain engaged in your care.
Tips for getting prepared for a hospital visit when you have hearing loss
Knowing how to prepare for a hospital stay when you have hearing loss can prevent lots of headaches (and other discomfort) in the future. There are some easy things you can do:
- Whenever you can, wear your hearing aids, and put them in their case when you aren’t using them.
- In a hospital setting, always advocate for yourself and ask your loved ones to advocate for you.
- Bring your case with you. It’s very important to have a case for your hearing aids. They will be able to be better taken care of that way.
- Keep your eye on your battery’s charge. Bring spares if you need them and charge your hearing aids when you can.
- Communicate to hospital staff about your hearing loss. Miscommunication will be less likely if they are well informed about your situation.
Communication with the hospital at every phase is the trick here. Your doctors and nurses need to be made aware of your hearing loss.
Hearing is a health concern
It’s important to acknowledge that your hearing health and your overall health are closely related. After all, your hearing can have a considerable impact on your general health. In a lot of ways, hearing loss is no different than a broken arm, in that each of these health issues calls for prompt treatment in order to avoid possible complications.
You don’t have to be like Tom. Keep your hearing aids close the next time you have to go in for a hospital stay.