Addressing Hearing Loss May Improve Care of Older Adults

Addressing Hearing Loss May Improve Care of Older Adults

In Hearing Loss by Dr. Marcus Kolmetz

Dr. Marcus Kolmetz

A new study has found that when clinicians address hearing loss in older adults, it can improve the quality of care they receive. The study, published in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, looked at a group of 516 patients aged 70 and older who were seen at an outpatient geriatric clinic. Hearing loss was assessed using a standard questionnaire, and then caregivers were asked to rate the quality of care their patients received. It turns out that patients with hearing loss were more likely to score lower on several measures of care quality, including communication with providers and coordination of care. The findings suggest that addressing hearing loss in older adults may be an essential way to improve the quality of care they receive. 

Healthcare professionals are often unprepared to deal with hearing loss patients

Those with hearing loss often feel misunderstood by medical professionals. It can be extremely stressful to try and follow a conversation about medical care when you are hearing-impaired, and many patients feel that their doctors and nurses don’t fully comprehend the challenges they face. This can lead to a feeling of isolation and frustration, as well as a sense that their care is not a priority. 

Additionally, when patients have trouble hearing, it can create a number of problems. Doctors may make fewer visits to their rooms and spend less time talking with them, which can lead to misunderstandings about treatments and aftercare instructions. As a result, patients with hearing impairments may be more likely to be readmitted to the hospital after they are discharged. This is particularly problematic for elderly patients, who are already at risk for complications from their illnesses. By making an effort to communicate successfully with hearing-impaired patients, medical professionals can help to ensure that they receive the care they need and prevent avoidable readmissions.

In order to improve the situation, it is important for medical professionals to receive proper training on how to communicate with hearing-impaired patients. By making an effort to communicate more successfully with them, medical professionals can help to ensure that patients receive the care they need and prevent avoidable readmissions. In addition, hospitals and clinics should strive to create an environment that is welcoming and accommodating for all patients, regardless of their conditions. 

Things healthcare professionals can do to facilitate successful communication

If you’re a caregiver or health professional tending to someone with hearing loss, there are several things that you can do to promote effective communication and understanding. Remember, even if an individual with hearing impairment is using a hearing aid, there are strategies and techniques that you can apply to improve their patient care experience. You want to avoid unnecessarily repeating yourself while minimizing the chances of misrepresenting essential instructions or questions.

  • Start with the patient’s name: Always grab the patient’s attention by saying their name before beginning your sentence. This ensures that your first few spoken words will not be missed and they will be prepared to follow the conversation.
  • Speak at a steady pace: Avoid talking too fast and make sure to keep your sentences short and succinct, with as few technical or complex terms as possible. 
  • Don’t rush: Utilize pauses between your sentences to gauge how well the patient is following and understanding the conversation. Take your time to analyze their body language and facial expressions.
  • Keep your face visible: Allow the patient to see your face clearly so they can utilize visual cues and hints from your own facial expressions. Also, avoid chewing or drinking while in conversation, as the patient may need to read your lips to augment the dialogue. 
  • Be mindful of abundant facial hair: Like chewing or drinking, ample facial hair, such as beards and mustaches, often impedes a patient’s ability to read your lips by obstructing them. You may have to compensate by speaking louder. 
  • Speak into their good ear: Oftentimes, hearing-impaired patients will have better hearing in one ear as opposed to the other. Try to remember which side is their best hearing side and position yourself accordingly. 
  • Always double-check and confirm: Medical updates and information are often very important and can have serious implications if a patient misunderstands. Check that they comprehend the things you have said and confirm that they are aware of their importance. 

Treating Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is the third most prevalent health condition in the United States and affects two-thirds of people age 65 and older. To ensure that you are always hearing at your best, make sure to schedule an annual hearing test. Contact us today!