Addressing Hearing Loss May Improve Care of Older Adults

Do you have a loved one with hearing loss? Older adults with hearing loss sometimes fall through the cracks, and don’t get the medical care they need. When your loved one can’t communicate clearly with health professionals, they risk a misdiagnosis or may receive the wrong treatment. Older adults with hearing loss have worse health outcomes than older adults who can hear clearly, and they even have higher rates of being readmitted to hospital. 

Communicating in a Hospital is Hard

Older adults with hearing loss receive less effective hospital care than those who can hear clearly. This is because they struggle to communicate with doctors and nurses in the hospital. It’s not hard to understand how this could happen. When an older adult with hearing loss arrives at the hospital, they may be confused or in shock. On top of that, they’re bombarded with all sorts of background sounds, including beeping machinery, PA system announcements, nearby conversations, and the sound of many people walking up and down the corridors.

All these noises make it even harder to hear questions or make sense of what’s being said. They are less likely to clearly explain their condition or provide all the details that doctors and nurses need to make good treatment decisions. And when they get discharged, these older adults with hearing loss are less likely to hear all the instructions about medications or ongoing care. 

Older Adults in Denial

To make matters even more complicated, many older adults who have a hard time hearing aren’t willing to admit they have a hearing loss. Many don’t realize just how many sounds they’re really missing. The most common hearing loss is high frequency hearing loss. Consonants are usually in this range, so older adults have a hard time understanding speech even if they think they’re hearing most of the words.

Less Effective Care for Older Adults with Hearing Loss

When communication breaks down, older adults don’t get the most effective care. They guess at what’s being said, mishear questions, and may even pretend they’ve understood what was said. A recent study from the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania found that hearing loss in older adults interferes with clear communication and it’s much harder for these adults to make good decisions about their health. They also found that hearing loss increases the chances of a misdiagnosis.

Poor communication ultimately leads to more visits to the doctor, more hospital visits, and a higher chance of rehospitalization for the same health concern. 

Higher Health Care Costs

Older adults with hearing loss also have much higher health care costs compared to older adults without hearing loss. A 2019 study published in the JAMA Otolaryngology journal showed that those with hearing loss had 46% higher total health care costs than those without hearing loss. They also had a lot more hospital stays and higher hospital readmission rates. 

Treating Hearing Loss Can Improve Quality of Care

The good news is that treating hearing loss can improve care for adults with hearing loss! If your loved one is hard of hearing, encourage them to get a hearing test and learn more about their hearing aids options. Hearing aids make it easier to follow conversations, focus on what’s being said, and tune out distracting background noise. Being able to communicate effectively in the hospital can improve quality of care, and help doctors make the right diagnosis.

Raising Awareness with Medical Professionals

It’s also important that doctors and nurses understand the importance of your or your loved one’s hearing abilities. If your loved one is admitted to the hospital, make sure they have their hearing aids, as well as extra hearing aids batteries or their hearing aid charger. Let the nurses know your loved one has hearing loss, and remind them to make sure your loved one is wearing their hearing aids for every conversation. This will improve communication and help your loved one get the care they deserve.

Treating Hearing Loss

If you or your loved one has hearing loss, contact us to schedule a hearing test. Find out more about your hearing loss and explore your hearing aid options. Quality hearing aids help you communicate, and they can help you get quality care when the unexpected happens.