Addressing Hearing Loss May Improve Care of Older Adults

Recent reports have shown that older adults with untreated hearing loss are more likely to return to the hospital for additional visits. This simple fact has opened the door to a new line of questioning about the treatment of hearing impaired and hard-of-hearing adults. Regulations on the books are quite clear that those who need additional accommodations for hearing need to receive that assistance in medical settings, but reports from individuals show that these services are not always offered or provided. Let’s consider a case example of the problems that might face an older adult with untreated hearing loss in a medical setting. Thinking through the barriers to care is a good way to explore options for accommodation and the importance of getting treatment for hearing loss as soon as possible.

 

Hearing Loss in Medical Settings

 

The diagnostic process in a hospital or other medical setting requires clear and comprehensive communication. Upon entering a facility or urgent care center, a person is presented with a barrage of questions about their health condition, identification, and insurance. A misunderstanding or confused answer at the outset can point a person in the wrong direction or cause problems down the road. Diagnosis officially begins at triage. The triage center in many emergency rooms and urgent care settings can be chaotic and noisy. Many triage stations are lined with cloth curtains rather than solid walls, so the noises from the rest of the emergency room can provide conflicting sound. When a medical professional begins the triage process, the list of diagnostic questions can be quite long and rapid. One miscommunication in this process can lead the sequency of questioning in the wrong direction. When a doctor or another medical professional continues the diagnosis, these answers form the foundation of the decisions that are made about treatment, as well. As you can see, communication is the key to a high quality of care, but those with hearing loss are often placed in a worst-case scenario for having a conversation about their health. 

 

Improving Caring for Older Adults

 

What can you do to help improve care for the older adults in your life? There are practical steps you can take in medical settings to assist the communication process. First, be sure to accompany your loved one and to pay attention to the questions and answers that are provided. If anything seems to be contrary to the conversations you had, be sure to speak up right away. When the time comes for triage or a diagnostic conversation, request that the meeting take place in quiet room in the hospital or medical center. Background noise and competing voices can make it much more difficult to have these important conversations. 

 

If your loved one has hearing impairment that requires an interpreter, be sure to make your request as soon as possible. The hospital is required to provide this service, but it can take some time to locate and schedule an interpreter, depending on the location and time of day. You can also do a lot to help translate questions to your loved one with hearing loss. If you stand close to your loved one, you can repeat questions at a close distance and in a way that you know they will understand. Even when you perform this service, be sure to let older adults speak for themselves. Although you might think you know exactly what is going on, you might be surprised to learn that you had made assumptions or misunderstood something prior to going to the medical facility.

Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss

These strategies can be quite helpful to improve the quality of care in medical settings, potentially pointing your loved one toward a correct diagnosis and preventing a return visit. However, the only durable solution to untreated hearing loss is to get assistance. If your loved one is able to engage in the process with hearing aids in place, you just might be able to eliminate the gap in understanding that leads to a misdiagnosis or a return visit. Before you find yourselves in a difficult medical situation, why not give us a call to schedule a hearing test and consultation