Going to the hospital can be a really stressful endeavor. Not only are you not feeling well, but there are often long lines, stressful bureaucracy, not to mention the feeling of being cooped up with a lot of other people who are feeling well. Most of us would agree that the primary goal of going to the hospital is usually to be able to leave as soon as possible—and to not return any time soon!
New research shows that hospital visits are more difficult for older Americans who are deaf and hard-of-hearing. Nearly 1 in 3 people in the United States who are over the age of 65 years old experience the effects of hearing loss. By the time people reach the age of 75, they have an even higher risk of experiencing hearing loss.
Study on Hearing Loss & Hospital Re-Admission
Researchers at New York University have found that older people who experience hearing loss are at greater risk for having to return to the hospital after being discharged. Conducted at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, researchers examined data from a national survey called the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS). This survey consists 4,436 participants, all of whom were 65 years and older and who were hospitalized at least once between 2010 and 2013. Of this population, 12 percent said that their hearing loss made it difficult to communicate with their doctors as well as with other medical staff the encountered at the hospital. Many people in the study had to in fact return to the hospital within a month of their being initially discharged. The researchers found that hospital patients who were discharged and who reported that they had had trouble communicating with their doctors had 32 percent greater odds of being readmitted to the hospital in the next month
This is perhaps not a surprising statistic. While hospitals are typically well-equipped to handle all manner of physical ailments, they are often not the best places to deal with invisible disabilities such as hearing loss. One of the researchers on the study, Jan Blustein, noted that the loud, chaotic, and noisy nature of hospitals can be especially difficult for people who are hard-of-hearing. Blustein explains, “Hospitals are noisy, chaotic places and people with hearing loss may have trouble understanding key information, such as what medicines they should take after discharge, or how they should watch for or manage exacerbation of their symptoms. This puts them at risk for difficulties after they are discharged from hospital.”
There is a lot of room for hospitals to become more attentive to the needs of people who are deaf and hard-of-hearing. Blustein notes, “Attending to hearing loss is a strategy that hospitals really have not tried, and if they tried it, they might be able to reduce the risk of readmission for significant portion of their patients.”
Treating Hearing Loss
While it may take a long time for hospitals to change their practices so that they can better communicate with patients who are experiencing hearing loss, no matter how old they may be, there are some things that you and your loved ones can do to improve communication across different hearing capabilities. Perhaps the most important thing you can do, particularly in a hospital setting, is to simply disclose that you have hearing loss. The clearer you can communicate your hearing needs to the medical professionals you interface with, the more likely they are to respond to your communication needs. You can simply state that you have hearing loss and that you would like the relevant person to speak more loudly or to slow down when they speak. You can also feel free to ask them speak more closely to you, or to direct their speech toward the right or left ear, whichever has the strongest hearing for you. You may also consider acquiring hearing aids that will amplify the hearing you do have. This may not signal to hospital workers that you are hard-of-hearing, though—remember to continually ask people to communicate with you as you need. Being at the hospital is no fun, being there and also suffering poor communication is likely to prolong your stay in ways that you’d rather not.
Indeed, treating hearing loss is an important part of your overall health and well-being. To schedule a consultation and hearing test, contact us at Exceptional Hearing Care today.