Visits to the hospital aren’t nearly as exciting as, say, a trip to an ice cream parlor for a waffle cone on a hot afternoon. Few people look forward to visiting the hospital, and fewer still yearn for a return visit. But patients with hearing loss in Tucson are more likely to be readmitted to the hospital shortly after discharge, according to a study published by researchers at New York University.
Hospitals and Hearing Loss
Approximately 48 million Americans experience hearing loss. It is especially prevalent in older adults; about one out of every three individuals aged 65 has hearing loss, a number that jumps to one out of two by the age of 75.
Many hearing-impaired patients have particular trouble following conversations in noisy environments. Hospitals are notoriously busy places, with a lot going on. Doctors and nurses are scrambling about, machines are beeping, often-distraught loved ones are asking questions, and alarms are going off. All this translates to a noisy environment where understanding speech becomes a real challenge, especially for people suffering from hearing loss.
A new study, published this month in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, examined 4,436 participants aged 65 and older. All had been hospitalized at least once between 2010 and 2013. Of that group, 12 percent reported hearing difficulties that made communicating with medical staff a challenge. The results were illuminating: those who had trouble communicating with doctors and medical staff, were 32 percent more likely to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge compared to patients with normal hearing.
Researcher Jan Blustein, with NYU’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, says, “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 (a) significant portion of their patients.”
Hearing Loss and Education
On the opposite end of the spectrum, a study published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery found that patients who treated their hearing loss with hearing aids were less likely to be hospitalized or visit the emergency room. Those who were hospitalized spent fewer nights overall in the hospital.
These results demonstrate clearly the importance of wearing hearing aids to treat hearing loss in Tucson and other communities across the U.S. By educating the public on the prevalence of hearing loss, especially among older adults, it is likely the number of hospital readmissions will be reduced.
If you or a loved one is experiencing hearing loss, a Tucson audiologist can help you select an appropriate hearing aid for your impairment. We urge you to schedule an appointment today.
Afterwards, you can even stop for that ice cream cone if you’d like.