Hearing loss

Addressing Hearing Loss May Improve Care of Older Adults

Hearing loss is one of the most common health concerns for adults above age 60. About one-third of those aged 60–69 have hearing loss, and about two-thirds of those 70 and up have it. Nearly 100% of centenarians have hearing loss, suggesting we will all experience it if we only live long enough.

Hearing Loss Tends to Bring Additional Health Problems With It

Hearing loss is known by the medical community to result in a litany of health problems, but these connections are less understood by the general public. Many people think of hearing loss as an annoying but relatively benign part of getting older. Hearing loss tends to set off a cascade of negative health outcomes that can be avoided with treatment in the form of hearing aids.

Those with hearing loss are more prone to depression, paranoia, loneliness, social isolation, accidental injury, and even earlier onset of cognitive decline and dementia. We might imagine the toll that hearing loss takes as a kind of opportunity cost. Over time, the lack of information coming in through our ears results in countless missed opportunities for maintaining or improving our health and well-being, and for most people, this results in declining enjoyment of life as well as declining health.

Hearing Loss Increases the Likelihood of Hospitalization

Unfortunately, this declining health increases the likelihood of hospital visits, where hearing loss poses additional problems. Hospitals are chaotic, fast-paced environments. Still, doctors and other caregivers need to communicate about planned interventions and treatments, and patients need to be able to comprehend what they’re saying to make informed decisions and understand the requirements for additional care, follow-ups, and self-care after leaving the hospital.

Hearing Loss Increases the Likelihood of Readmission

A study conducted by researchers at New York University and published in 2018 in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society followed hospital patients over age 65. Those who said they had trouble communicating with hospital workers were 32% more likely to be readmitted within 30 days after release.

While some hospitals have policies in place to help staff communicate better with patients who are hard of hearing, the decision to implement such a policy is currently left to each hospital. This means there is no guarantee that staff will have recourse when confronted with a patient who does not understand them.

Oftentimes, the patients most at risk for the miscommunication that can take place in a hospital setting may not be aware of their hearing loss or maybe in denial. Busy hospital staff may not recognize that a patient is pretending to hear, or that they seem disoriented beyond simply being in an unfamiliar environment with a medical emergency.

It is also worth mentioning that brain atrophy associated with untreated hearing loss also causes problems in the hospital. Those who are habituated to hearing loss routinely have problems understanding spoken language even when they hear it. This is because the auditory cortex, where speech is automatically processed when hearing is normal, stops functioning normally with prolonged untreated hearing loss. It’s not that the brain cells “die,” but the gray matter between them tends to dissipate, and the structure sort of collapses. Under these circumstances, even when hospital personnel fit a patient with a personal amplifier or other means of amplifying voices, the patient is unlikely to understand everything being communicated.

Hearing Aids Can Help

The best way to prepare for whatever may come is to procure a set of hearing aids and wear them every day! Hearing aid wearers, quite simply, stay habituated to spoken communication. They tend to be more optimistic, confident, and both independent and connected. When a hospital visit becomes necessary, hearing aid wearers are more able to communicate with doctors and nurses to help navigate the situation and restore their health and well-being.

But wearing hearing aids is not just about being prepared for the worst. Hearing aids improve the experience of everyday life. When asked after one year of wearing them, 95% of people say they’re glad they got hearing aids. Hearing aids help us to stay active, connected, healthier and happier.

If you or a loved one may be having hearing issues, make an appointment for a hearing test today and find out what hearing aids can do to improve your health and your enjoyment of life!