Picture of arrows missing the target43% of patients over 60 may be missing important health information due to hearing loss, according to a new study. At a time when heeding medical advice is so crucial to managing chronic conditions, maintaining independence and enjoying the retirement years, patients may be missing major details related to their care.

Are you?

In this article, we’ll explore how hearing loss can impact quality of care and what you can do to make sure you’re not missing important information.

Hearing Loss — A National Epidemic

Hearing loss isn’t a small matter. According to the Department of Health, nearly 40 million Americans have some trouble hearing. As you can imagine, the chance of having disabling hearing loss increases with age.

If we delve further, we find that shockingly only about 30% of seniors suffering from hearing loss have, or use, solutions that would improve their hearing. This trend isn’t good news for medical care as we’ll demonstrate next.

The Importance of Communication in Medical Care

What’s the leading cause of medical errors in the US? Is it lack of training? Is it fatigue? Is it incompetence? Is it under-qualified professionals trying do too much? No.

Miscommunication is the leading cause of medical errors in the US. Medical errors are the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S. A report from Harvard showed that as many as 37% of severe injuries that resulted from medical errors could have been prevented with improved communication. An improved ability to communicate important information with patients could save lives.

How Hearing Loss Impacts Medical Care

Statistics can seem a little abstract and intangible so let’s look at important information you could miss with speaking with pharmacists, nurses, doctors and other professionals.

Doctors and nurses work with you regarding certain health goals. They may explain what healthy levels are for things like blood sugar, blood pressure or coumadin. They might tell you to avoid certain foods to prevent causing spikes in these numbers that can do you harm. You could be missing important pieces of advice that would help you manage your condition.

These medical providers may explain danger zones that indicate that you need medical attention. If you don’t understand fully what the physician is communicating, you may miss important warning signs and delay getting help.

Your pharmacist could try to warn you about dangerous side effects or drug interactions. You think you heard everything but you miss an important detail and end up in the hospital.

Your physical therapist puts you on a strength-building regimen, but warns you against a certain activity. You miss the advice and suffer a serious fall as a result.

Why Communicating Medical Information Is Especially Challenging

Communicating medical information is particularly challenging because of a little thing called “context”. When you suffer from hearing loss, you use context to “fill in the blanks” where you missed something. Your brain is actually very good at compensating for hearing loss. So good, in fact, that it may even convince you that you heard something you didn’t really hear.

With medical information something as small as a “don’t” or “not” can completely change the meaning of a sentence. One number misunderstood could completely change a dosage, a goal or a danger zone.

In medical care the littlest details matter. Missing them has shown to lead to medical errors.

Getting Help for Hearing Loss

If you’re suffering from hearing loss, you could be missing important medical advice. It’s time to do something about that and get your hearing back. To learn more about how we can help you hear better, schedule an appointment with a local hearing specialist.