Hearing loss is the third most common health condition that older adults experience today. Not only does it impact hearing and communication, but it can also affect the care that older adults receive.
Older Adults & Hearing Loss
The risk of developing hearing loss increases with age. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD):
- 1 in 3 adults, ages 65-74, have some degree of hearing loss.
- 1 in 2 adults, ages 75 and older, have disabling hearing loss.
Aging is the strongest indicator of hearing loss. Also known as presbycusis, age related hearing loss can be caused by the following factors:
- changes to the ear that may happen over time.
- the cumulative impact of loud noise.
- existing medical conditions that are linked to hearing loss and also impact older adults disproportionately. This includes conditions like cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis etc.
Age related hearing loss that is permanent. Fortuentaly, there are effective solutions including hearing aids which support hearing tremendously.
Link Between Hearing Loss and Hospital Readmission
Hearing loss can impact people in various ways including affecting the care they receive. Substantial research shows that hearing loss can increase the risk of hospital readmission. This is highlighted by two significant studies that investigate this link:
- New York University Study: researchers at NYU evaluated data on 4,436 people (ages 65 and older) who experienced communication challenges with healthcare providers due to hearing loss. This data was compared to people who did not report communication difficulties with healthcare providers. Researchers found that people with hearing loss were 32% more likely to be readmitted within 30 days.
- Johns Hopkins University Study: researchers evaluated healthcare claims of 77,000 people with symptoms of untreated hearing loss. After analyzing this data researchers found that patients with hearing loss were 44% more likely to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days compared to patients without hearing loss over a 10 year period.
These studies illuminate a link between hearing loss and increased risk of hospital readmission. This impacts quality of care as well as increases healthcare costs. The Johns Hopkins University study revealed that over 10 years, the total cost associated with hospital readmission for people with hearing loss was $22,434 for each patient.
Addressing Hearing Loss Improves Care
Addressing and prioritizing hearing needs can improve care for older adults. It is important for healthcare providers to take the time to get to know patient needs and how to best communicate with each individual. Practicing the following strategies can help improve care:
- Ask Questions: effective communication is integral to providing quality care. So it is essential for healthcare providers to know how to meet the hearing and communication needs of their patients. They can start by simply asking their patient if they have hearing loss and how to best communicate with them. This starts a conversation centered on hearing needs which is foundational for productive communication and quality care.
- Maximize Resources: there are resources that have been developed specifically for healthcare providers working with patients who have hearing loss. This includes resources developed by the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). The HLAA developed the Communication Access Plan (CAP), a tool that helps healthcare providers assess the hearing needs of their patients. The CAP is a one-page form that documents the hearing status and communication needs of patients. This is useful to complete and have on file, allowing all healthcare providers to have access to this information when meeting with the patient.
- Use Communication Strategies: another great way to provide quality care is to use communication strategies that support the patient’s hearing needs. Examples of effective communication strategies include: reducing background noise as much as possible, minimizing visual stimuli, making sure the room is well lit, maintaining completely visibility, using visual aids, speaking in a natural tone (avoid projecting your voice), pausing between sentences, rephrasing rather than repeating when something hasn’t been heard, checking-in to see if anything can be clarified etc.
Implementing these strategies supports hearing and communication which is critical to providing quality care for older adults. Contact us today to learn more about how you can improve care!
- Dining Out with Hearing Aids: Enhancing Your Social Experience - September 19, 2023
- 10 Common Hearing Myths: Separating Fact from Fiction - September 5, 2023
- The Dance Between Hearing and Balance - August 30, 2023