When You’re Hospitalized, Hearing Loss Can Cause Complications

Female doctor communicating with older man who has hearing loss in wheelchair examining reports at the hospital corridor.

Tom is getting a brand new knee and he’s super pumped! Look, as you age, the types of things you look forward to change. He will be capable of moving around more easily and will experience less pain with this knee replacement. So the operation is a success and Tom heads home.

That’s when things go wrong.

The knee doesn’t heal properly. Tom finds himself back in the hospital with an infection and will require another surgery. Tom is not as excited by this point. The doctors and nurses have come to the realization that Tom wasn’t following their advice and instructions for recovery.

Tom didn’t purposely ignore the guidelines. Tom actually never even heard the instructions. Tom can take some comfort in the fact that he isn’t alone: there’s a solid link between hospital visits and hearing loss.

Hearing loss can lead to more hospital visits

By now, you’re likely familiar with the common disadvantages of hearing loss: you grow more distant from your loved ones, you increase your risk of social isolation, and have an increased danger of getting dementia. But there can be additional, less obvious disadvantages to hearing loss, too, some of which we’re just starting to actually 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 found that individuals with hearing loss have a 17% greater risk of requiring a trip to the emergency room and a 44% increased risk of readmission later on.

Is there a link?

There are a couple of reasons why this could be.

  • Once you’re in the hospital, your chance of readmission increases considerably. Readmission occurs when you’re discharged from the hospital, spend some time at home, and then have to go back to the hospital. Complications sometimes happen that lead to this readmission. Readmission can also occur because the initial problem wasn’t correctly managed or even from a new problem.
  • Your situational awareness can be affected negatively by untreated hearing loss. If you aren’t aware of your surroundings, you might be more likely to get into a car accident or stub your toe. These types of injuries can, of course, send you to the hospital (if you stub your toe hard enough).

Risk of readmission is increased

So why are individuals with untreated hearing loss more likely to be readmitted to the hospital? This occurs for a couple of reasons:

  • If you have untreated hearing loss, you may not be able to hear the instructions that your doctors and nurses give you. You won’t be able to properly do your physical therapy, for instance, if you fail to hear the guidelines from your physical therapist. This can result in a longer recovery period while you’re in the hospital and also a longer recovery once you’re discharged.
  • If you’re unable to hear your recovery directions, you won’t know how to take care of yourself as you continue recovering at home. 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 example, let’s say you’ve recently undergone knee replacement surgery. Your surgeon may tell you not to take a shower for the next 3 weeks, but you hear 3 days instead. And you might find yourself back in the hospital with a serious infection.

Keeping track of your hearing aids

At first glance, the solution here might seem simple: you just need to use your hearing aids! Regrettably, hearing loss often advances very slowly, and individuals with hearing loss might not always realize they are experiencing symptoms. Coming in to see us for a hearing test 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 trips are usually quite chaotic. So the probability of losing your hearing aid is absolutely present. You will be better able to remain engaged in your care when you’re in the hospital if you know how to handle your hearing aid.

Tips for getting prepared for a hospital visit when you have hearing loss

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 get yourself ready. Here are a few basic things you can do:

  • Communicate to hospital staff about your hearing loss. Miscommunication will be less likely if they are well informed about your situation.
  • Whenever you can, use your hearing aids, and put them in their case when you aren’t using them.
  • In a hospital setting, you should always advocate for yourself and ask your loved ones to advocate for you.
  • Bring your case with you. Having a case for your hearing aid is very important. They will be able to be better cared for that way.
  • Be aware of your battery power. Bring spares if you need them and charge your hearing aids when you can.

The key here is to communicate with the hospital at every stage. Your doctors and nurses should be made aware of your hearing loss.

Hearing is a health issue

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 substantial impact on your general health. In many ways, hearing loss is the same as a broken arm, in that each of these health problems requires prompt treatment in order to avoid 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.

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.