Tom is getting a new knee and he’s super pumped! Look, as you age, the types of things you look forward to change. His knee replacement means he will feel less pain and be able to get out and about a lot better. So the operation is a success and Tom goes home.
That’s when things go wrong.
Regrettably, the healing process doesn’t go as it should. Tom ends up back in the hospital with an infection and will need another surgery. Tom is not as psyched by this point. As the doctors and nurses try to determine what occurred, it becomes evident that Tom wasn’t adhering to his recovery guidelines.
So here’s the thing: it’s not that Tom didn’t want to follow those recovery guidelines. The problem is that he never heard them. Tom can take some comfort in the fact that he’s not by himself: there’s a strong link between hospital visits and hearing loss.
Hearing loss can lead to more hospital visits
At this point, you’re most likely familiar with the typical disadvantages of hearing loss: you grow more withdrawn from your loved ones, you increase your risk of social isolation, and have an increased danger of developing cognitive decline. But there can be added, less apparent disadvantages to hearing loss, too, some of which we’re just beginning to actually understand.
One of those relationships that’s becoming more evident is that hearing loss can lead to an increase in emergency room trips. One study found that individuals with hearing loss have a 17% greater danger of requiring a trip to the emergency room and a 44% higher chance of readmission later on.
Is there a link?
There are a couple of reasons why this might be.
- Once you’re in the hospital, your chance of readmission goes up substantially. Readmission happens when you are discharged from the hospital, spend some time at home, and then need to go back to the hospital. Complications sometimes happen that lead to this readmission. In other instances, readmission may be the outcome of a new problem, or because the original issue wasn’t properly addressed.
- Untreated hearing loss can negatively impact your situational awareness. If you aren’t aware of your surroundings, you might be more likely to have a car accident or stub your toe. These kinds of injuries can, of course, send you to the hospital (if you stub your toe hard enough).
Increased chances of readmission
Why is readmission more likely for individuals who have untreated hearing loss? There are a couple of reasons for this:
- When your nurses and doctors give you guidelines you may not hear them very well because of your untreated hearing loss. For instance, if you can’t hear what your physical therapist is telling you to do, you won’t be able to do your physical therapy treatment as well as you otherwise would. 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 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.
Let’s say, for instance, you’ve recently undergone surgery to replace your knee. Your surgeon may tell you not to take a 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 put you back at the hospital).
Keeping track of your hearing aids
At first glance, the answer here might seem simple: you just need to wear your hearing aids! Sadly, in the early phases of hearing loss, it frequently goes unnoticed because of how gradually it progresses. 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 complication: you might lose them. Hospital visits are usually rather chaotic. So the possibility of losing your hearing aid is absolutely 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 bringing your hearing aids with you during a hospital stay
Knowing how to prepare for a hospital stay when you’re dealing with hearing loss can prevent a lot of headaches (and other discomfort) in the future. There are some simple things you can do:
- In a hospital setting, you should always advocate for yourself and ask your loved ones to advocate for you.
- Use your hearing aids when you can, and when you aren’t wearing them, make certain to keep them in the case.
- Make sure that the hospital staff is aware of your hearing loss. The more informed you are about your hearing loss, the less likelihood there is for a miscommunication to occur.
- Don’t forget your case. It’s very important to use 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.
Communication with the hospital at every phase is the trick here. Your doctors and nurses need to be told about your hearing loss.
Hearing loss can cause health problems
So perhaps it’s time to stop thinking of hearing health and your overall wellness as two completely different things. After all, your hearing can have a significant impact on your general health. In many ways, hearing loss is no different than a broken arm, in that each of these health problems requires prompt treatment in order to prevent possible complications.
You don’t need to be like Tom. Keep your hearing aids close the next time you need to go in for a hospital stay.