Hearing Loss and Hospital Readmission Rates

A recently released study for The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society by New York University researchers shows that, for individuals over the age of 65, hearing loss is an increased risk factor for hospital readmission.

These rates are a hotbed of current research, since Medicare will not pay for patient readmissions for certain conditions that occur within 30 days. Healthcare providers are working hard to curtail such situations.

The key issue with regards to hearing loss revolves around the ability of patients to communicate with healthcare workers. It was found that people who reported problems communicating with medical personnel  — after teasing out other factors — were 32 percent more likely to be readmitted within 30 days.

Since hospitals tend to be noisy, fast-paced environments, it’s not surprising that the hearing issues of patients might be a problem.

“Attending to hearing loss is a strategy that hospitals really have not tried, and if they tried it they might be able to reduce the risk of readmission for significant portion of their patients,” said NYU’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service researcher Jan Blustein to Reuters.

“Hospitals are noisy chaotic places, and people with hearing loss may have trouble understanding key information, such as what medicines they should take after discharge, or how they should watch for or manage exacerbation of their symptoms,” he added. “This puts them at risk for difficulties after they are discharged from hospital.”

Obviously, having had hearing loss issues treated prior to hospitalization would be of great benefit. There are also methods and technology that hospitals can put in place that could lessen the problem.

Anyone who’s been hospitalized, or their caregivers, should be aware of these issues.

Think About Your Hearing This Month

October is not only the month of Halloween. It’s also National Audiology Awareness Month.

As the seasons shift, it’s a good time to consider your hearing — and maybe schedule an exam. Hearing loss is sometimes sudden and dramatic, but more often than not it is gradual and adapted to without conscious thought. Hearing loss may have already happened and you haven’t “noticed” it yet, though once tested it will become apparent that some of the sound spectra has been “turned off.”

Approximately 40 million people in the United States have some degree of hearing impairment. And the loudness of modern life — leaf blowers, traffic, high-volume music (especially listened to via earbuds), and any number of other activities that include exposure to high-decibel noise — will mean that number is sure to continue growing.

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has found that the average amount of time between the first onset of hearing loss and when someone actually seeks treatment is 7 to 10 years. That’s a long time to hear less than is possible and is also a long stretch of time in which further complications — such as mental health issues and cognitive impairment — can take root.

The first Audiology Awareness Month was in 2008. The event is sponsored by the American Academy of Audiology.

For older people, hearing loss is the third most common health issue after heart disease and diabetes. But only 20 percent of people with hearing loss seek treatment. And with more and more evidence that untreated hearing loss is associated with the onset of dementia and other cognitive issues, it should be part of every older American’s basic health screening.

October is a great month to get started on taking care of your hearing health.

Hearing in the Workplace

A myriad of potential hazards falls under the category of workplace safety — including hearing loss.
The fact is that untreated hearing loss is now a management issue. With hearing loss becoming more common in younger people — at the same time that the retirement age is creeping up — hearing issues are just more likely to happen in the workplace today and moving forward.

The majority of the 40 million Americans with hearing issues are actually still in the workforce. It is estimated that more than 10 percent of the full-time workforce has a diagnosed hearing issue.

Since most jobs depend on good communication between workers and, in retail, with customers — it is inherent that the listening skills of workers be prioritized. And it’s hard to be a good listener with untreated hearing loss.

This is not only a management issue but also one for workers. A Better Hearing Institute (BHI) survey found that people with untreated hearing loss were likely to see a decrease in their income. In addition, people with significant untreated hearing issues were unemployed at double the rate of that of their fellow job seekers.

Efforts by employers to have their employees screened for hearing problems — as part of basic workplace health programs — are an obvious first step. BHI found that the use of hearing aids (which 8 out of 10 users report better their lives) found that income loss for those with mild hearing loss was reduced 90 to 100 percent after getting hearing aids. For those with severe to moderate hearing loss, income decline was reduced 65 to 77 percent.

As older workers become more and more a part of the employment landscape, hearing loss and corrective measures will have to become a greater emphasis for both employers and employees.

Phonak Audéo B-Direct

Some of the Best New Hearing Aid Products for 2018

The start of a new year is a good time to highlight some of the best new hearing aid products that were introduced last year. Now might be the time to see what’s available for “stepping up” your hearing experience.

Towards the end of 2017 Phonak brought to market their new Audéo B-Direct. This Bluetooth-equipped hearing aid features the propriety Sonova Wireless One Radio Digital (SWORD) computer chip. It’s one of the most powerful processers built into a hearing aid.

With SWORD, you can connect directly — with no additional streaming device required — to almost every cellphone, smartphone, and computer on the market, including older models using classic Bluetooth protocol. In addition, with the Phonak TV Connector, you can plug and play your hearing aid with TV or stereo systems. If connectivity is something important to you, then the Audéo B-Direct may be worth considering.

From Signia comes their new Nx line, featuring their OVP™ (Own Voice Processing) that uses the latest in digital technology to create the most natural sound of your own voice that a hearing aid can offer. A separate and independent computer processer is dedicated to dealing with the hearing aid user’s own voice, while the Sound Clarity processer excels at providing a normal sound experience in all locations by handling the sounds other than the user’s voice.

The Nx line also features long-lasting batteries due to their excellent energy efficiency, the myControl App for remote control, and the myHearing App that includes product support and the ability to create a direct virtual connection with your hearing care provider.