Improving the Care of Older Adults May Involve Addressing Hearing Loss

Improving the Care of Older Adults May Involve Addressing Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is the third most common medical condition older adults live with today. Though it is a pervasive health issue, it remains widely undertreated. Only one third of people who could benefit from hearing loss treatment are actually receiving it. Untreated hearing loss has a myriad of effects on health, wellness, and quality of life. It strains communication which is integral to how we live – relationships, navigating the workplace, social engagement etc. Hearing loss that remains untreated can be especially impactful among older adults. Studies show that it can affect their healthcare. This highlights the importance of treatment which can transform hearing and also improve care for older adults.  

Older Adults & Hearing Loss

Aging is a common cause of hearing loss. A few factors contribute to this including the cumulative toll of noise exposure on the auditory system, changes to the ear over time, as well as medical conditions that older adults can be more vulnerable to (osteoporosis, diabetes, hypertension). This means that  older adults experience hearing loss disproportionately.  According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

  • 1 in 3 adults, ages 65-74, have hearing loss 
  • 1 in 2 adults, ages 75 and older, have disabling hearing loss 

You likely know someone, a friend or loved one, who is living with some degree of hearing loss. Even though hearing loss is such a common health issue that is experienced today, it is underdiagnosed. There is widespread delay in addressing and treating hearing loss. In fact, it takes an average of 7 years for people to address their symptoms. This can be particularly impactful for older adults as studies show that it can affect their care. 

Impact of Hearing Loss on Health Care

Hearing loss can affect the care older adults receive in major ways. Impaired hearing reduces a person’s ability to hear and process sound. This produces numerous symptoms that create barriers for effective communication. Hearing loss makes it challenging to engage in and follow conversations which is integral to receiving healthcare and advocating for health needs. Studies show that these challenges, specifically with healthcare providers, increases the risk of hospital readmission. 

An important study that investigated the link between hearing loss and hospital readmission conducted by researchers at New York University. Researchers collected and analyzed data provided by a national survey. This included 4,436 participants, ages 65 and older, who were hospitalized at least once in the previous 3 years. Key findings include: 

People who reported dealing with challenges communicating with their doctors were 32% more likely to return to the hospital in the next month. 

  • 12% reported that hearing challenges made it difficult to communicate with healthcare providers. 

These findings highlight the impact of hearing loss on communication between patients and healthcare professionals. Hospital or clinic settings can be tougher to hear in with various activities and noise in the background. Hearing can further be strained by healthcare providers who aren’t aware that their patient has hearing challenges and are less familiar with supporting hearing. These communication breakdowns impact care, health outcomes, and even healthcare costs due to readmission. This not only shows how integral hearing health is in overall health care but also emphasizes the importance of treating hearing loss.  

Treating Hearing Loss Improves Care

There are effective solutions for hearing loss that offer countless benefits including improving care. Hearing loss is most commonly treated with hearing aids – prescribed electronic devices that are designed to absorb, amplify, and process sound. This provides the ears and brain with amply hearing support, making it easier to hear and understand sound. Hearing aids alleviate symptoms as well as maximize one’s hearing capacity. This enables people to navigate conversations with greater ease. 

Treating hearing loss strengthens communication by providing critical support with processing sound. With greater capacity to hear and engage in conversation, people are better able to have conversations about their health. This also includes understanding what is being communicated – treatments, medications, regimens etc. Transformed hearing health contributes to improved care, decreasing the risk of readmission as well as enhancing wellness. 

Prioritize Your Hearing Health Today

Contact us today to learn more about hearing loss and to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.