A recently published study has found that the use of hearing aids may be associated with reduced emergency room visits and hospitalizations for older adults. Published in JAMA Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, the study shows that the use of hearing aids may also be associated with shorter hospital stays.
The study reviewed medical data from 1336 US Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 or older. Each of them reported that they suffered with hearing loss and used hearing aids. The study reviewed data on:
- Total health care spending including Medicare and out-of-pocket spending
- Emergency department visits
- Inpatient visits and number of nights in the hospital
- Office visits
The data showed that patients with hearing aids had two percent fewer emergency room visits, two percent fewer hospitalizations and five percent fewer nights in the hospital. The use of hearing aids also reduced Medicare spending by $71.
However, the study also showed that the use of hearing aids increased the probability of a visit to the physician’s office by four percent. It also increased total healthcare spending by an average of $1,125 per person and out-of-pocket costs by an average of $325 per person.
Researchers could only speculate about why hearing aid use leads to fewer hospitalizations and ED visits. However, they suspect it reflects an uneven distribution of healthcare services in the U.S. based on those who can afford access.
- The cost of hearing aids is not covered with Medicare. Therefore, those with hearing aids tend to have more resources than those who do not which allows them to seek preventative care, avoiding ED visits.
- Hearing aids lead to better communication between physician and patient. Therefore, patients with hearing aids are more “aware of their well-being and health conditions. They are more likely to request office visits as needed to take care of their own health.”
- Better communication can also lead to better understanding of treatment plans and improved adherence to medication, both of which can help to avoid hospitalizations and ED visits.
While this serves as an example of healthcare disparities in the United States, it also shines a light on the importance of communication in healthcare. Whether or not your loved one wears a hearing aid, it is important to ensure that they fully understand what the physician is saying. You can play a role in that. When you go to a doctor’s visit with your loved one, make sure the following is taking place:
- The physician is speaking directly to your loved one.
- The physician is using terminology your loved one understands.
- Your loved one is listening to the physician.
- Your loved one feels free to ask questions.
- You have the right to ask questions.
- Treatment plans and medication plans are documented in detail and given to you and your loved one before you leave the physician’s office.
Hearing aids can vastly improve your loved one’s interaction with the world. However, even without them, these simple steps can ensure that good communication occurs between your loved one and the physician. It is the most important type of engagement for your loved one and can lead to improved compliance and better health.
If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.
Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care, Bed & Wheelchair Transfer Assistance, Companionship, Housekeeping & Meal Preparation, Personal Care, Recovery Care, and Transportation.