hearing loss hospitalization

Hospital Re-admission Rates High in Older Adults with Hearing Loss

A recent study, to be published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, sheds some light on the issue of hospital re-admissions and the impact hearing loss might have on them. Using the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS), the researchers from New York University identified patients aged 65 and over who said that they had difficulty communicating with health care personnel due to their hearing loss.

The researchers compared the hospitalization experiences of those reporting difficulty communicating with those who did not. Among those who were hospitalized, subjects with difficulty communicating with medical personnel had a 32-percent increase in the likelihood of being readmitted within 30 days, compared to those who did not report difficulty. This increased risk considered differences between the two groups, including age, number of medical problems, and a host of socio-demographic factors.

In the United States there are more than 35 million hospitalizations. According to government data, this accounts for a third of all American health care expenditures, with a substantial number of hospitalized patients returning there quickly. To reduce hospital readmissions, the Medicare program withholds payment to hospitals when patients are readmitted within 30 days of discharge for key conditions. Many hospitals are working diligently to find ways to reduce these hospital  readmissions.

“People with hearing loss often have difficulty understanding speech in noisy and stressful situations. 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. This puts them at risk for difficulties after they are discharged from hospital.”

–Jan Blustein, MD, PhD, lead study author

In the NYU press release announcing the publication of the study, Jan Blustein, MD, PhD noted there are several low-cost, low technology approaches to helping older people with hearing loss to hear better.  “There are simple devices that cost under $100 that have been successfully used by hospitals to assist hard-of-hearing patients. But few hospitals use them.  We hope that our research will help raise awareness of the potential to improve patient care by attending to hearing loss.”


Source: JAGS, NYU