Do have hearing loss and experienced the frustrations of communicating with people at a hospital? Here are some tips for managing your hearing loss during a hospital visit.
Hearing loss can be equally as important to address as the healthcare emergency that landed you in the hospital. Not being able to completely understand the medical professionals who are taking care of you can be just as scary as your health emergency.
Hospitals can be busy and noisy. People rush in, there are loud machines or announcements over the intercoms, and all sorts of people - from personnel to other patients and their loved ones - are around you and talking all at once. From masked staff members to healthcare workers with unfamiliar accents, it can be overwhelming.
It’s important not to guess or tell people who are helping you that you understand what they are saying when you don’t. An incorrect response could put your entire health at risk.
A lot of people, particularly the older population, go to the hospital without hearing aids. Many people with hearing loss don’t even have hearing aids due to financial reasons, or denial about their hearing loss.
When you are in a noisy and busy environment, like a hospital, your hearing loss can lead to more problems.
People who have Hearing Loss are More Prone to Hospitalizations
Approximately 40 million adults in the U.S. have some range of hearing loss and are more likely to require hospital care. According to research from Johns Hopkins, of these 40 million adults, untreated hearing loss has a 17 percent higher risk of visits to the emergency room. They are also more likely to stay in the hospital, spend more days in the hospital, and have a 44 percent risk of being readmitted within 30 days.
Practices the Hospitals can Implement
Hospitals can help patients with hearing loss by:
Make sure to Advocate for Yourself, or Get Help from a Loved One
Let staff, personnel, and other medical professionals know that you have hearing loss. If necessary, caregivers may need to take on this role.
It is very important that you speak up about your hearing loss, and ask for accommodations. Hearing loss is an invisible disability. On rare occasions, patients have been sent to the “behavioral health” unit where individuals with mental health issues go after misunderstanding or mishearing a question, or even misspeaking.
Wearing Hearing Aids in the Hospital
Even though it is recommended to wear hearing aids from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep, some people leave them at home because they are afraid of losing them.
If you decided to do this, alert the hospital staff about your hearing loss. Ask for a hearing amplifier. Plan ahead of time and practice using captioning apps. Otter is a great choice. With this app, conversations can be transcribed in real-time on your smartphone. For legal reasons, hospitals cannot provide this for you, but you may use it yourself.
If you choose to bring your hearing aids, and they need to be recharged, bring your charger along. The hospital that you go to might be able to track down a charger for you. Remember to carry extra batteries. You can always ask staff members if they have hearing aid batteries available for you.
Hearing is Important to make Proper Medical Decisions
Making medical decisions can happen at any stage during your hospital visit, especially if you arrived for an emergency. Whether you can hear or have trouble with hearing, it can be difficult to understand complicated or unfamiliar medical terms/procedures.
Whenever possible, have a friend or family member with good hearing and concentration involved in your decision. You may also use a transcriber on your phone. Make sure it’s accurate, and get help from the medical staff to verify its accuracy. If you find it too distracting to listen and watch at the same time, record the conversation and read the transcript at a later time.
Remind doctors, nurses, and other staff members that you are hard of hearing and ask them to speak up or repeat themselves when necessary.
What if Your loved one won’t Admit They Have Hearing Loss?
You cannot assume medical staff members will notice that your loved one has hearing loss. On average, only about half of the staff employees will be able to recognize this. Make sure that you inform staff members during the initial admittance and when seeing new medical staff members that your loved one has difficulty with hearing. This is especially important in hospice care and nursing homes.
If you or a loved one, experiences hearing loss and want an easier experience interacting with medical staff, please contact us at Pure Sound Hearing. We offer assistive listening devices that can help make your emergency visits pan out better, or we can show you how to use transcription apps.