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 capable of moving around more freely and will have less pain with this knee replacement. So Tom goes in, the operation is a success, and Tom goes home!

But that’s not the end of it.

The knee doesn’t heal as well as it should. An infection sets in, and Tom ends up back in the hospital for another knee surgery. It’s becoming less thrilling for Tom by the minute. The nurses and doctors have come to the realization that Tom wasn’t adhering to their advice and instructions for recovery.

So here’s the thing: it’s not that Tom didn’t want to observe those recovery guidelines. Tom actually never even heard the instructions. It turns out that there is a strong connection between hospital visits and hearing loss, so Tom isn’t alone.

Hearing loss can contribute 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 isolate yourself, causing you to become more removed from friends and loved ones, and you increase your danger of developing cognitive decline. But there can be additional, less apparent 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 result in an increase in emergency room trips. One study found that individuals with hearing loss have a 17% greater danger of needing a trip to the emergency room and a 44% higher risk of readmission later.

Is there a link?

There are a couple of reasons why this could be.

  • 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 take place if you’re not aware of what’s around you. These sorts of injuries can, obviously, land you in the hospital (if you stub your toe hard enough).
  • Your potential 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 happens because a complication occurs. In other cases, readmission might be the outcome of a new issue, or because the initial problem wasn’t addressed correctly.

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:

  • 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. This can lead to a longer recovery period while you’re in the hospital and also a longer recovery once you’re discharged.
  • Caring for yourself after you get home will be practically impossible if you don’t hear the instructions. You have an increased chance of reinjuring yourself if you don’t even know that you didn’t hear the instructions.

For instance, let’s say you’ve recently had 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 at risk of getting a severe infection (one that could land you back at the hospital).

Keeping track of your hearing aids

The solution might seem simple at first glance: you just need to use your hearing aids! Sadly, in the early phases of hearing loss, it frequently goes unnoticed because of how slowly it develops. Coming in to see us for a hearing aid discovery 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 rather chaotic. Which means there’s a lot of potential of losing your hearing aids. Knowing how to handle hearing aids during a hospital stay can help you remain engaged in your care.

Tips for taking your hearing aids with you during a hospital stay

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:

  • Keep your eye on your battery’s charge. 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 notified about your situation.
  • Don’t forget your case. Using a case for your hearing aid is very important. This will make them much easier to keep track of.
  • Use your hearing aids when you can, and put them in their case when you aren’t using them.
  • Urge your loved ones to advocate on your behalf. You should always be advocating for yourself in a hospital setting.

The key here is to communicate with the hospital at every phase. Be sure you’re telling your nurses and physicians about your hearing loss.

Hearing loss can cause health issues

So perhaps it’s time to stop thinking of hearing health and your general wellness as two totally different things. After all, your hearing can have a considerable affect on your overall health. In many ways, hearing loss is the same as a broken arm, in that each of these health problems calls for prompt treatment in order to avoid possible complications.

The power to avoid Tom’s fate is in your hands. The next time you find yourself in the hospital, make sure your hearing aids are with you.

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.