Hearing Loss and the Medically Fragile Patient Poor physical health status combined with hearing loss places older adults at greater risk for developing functional disabilities, including the loss of independence and autonomy. Decreased auditory function in medically frail older adults also may affect their ability or willingness to participate in their own audiologic rehabilitation. Interestingly, older adults ... Feature sidebar
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Feature sidebar  |   October 01, 2002
Hearing Loss and the Medically Fragile Patient
Author Notes
  • Craig Newman, an ASHA Fellow, is section head of audiology and co-director of the Audiology Research Laboratory at The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. Contact him by email at newmanc@ccf.org.
    Craig Newman, an ASHA Fellow, is section head of audiology and co-director of the Audiology Research Laboratory at The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. Contact him by email at newmanc@ccf.org.×
Article Information
Hearing Disorders / Feature sidebar
Feature sidebar   |   October 01, 2002
Hearing Loss and the Medically Fragile Patient
The ASHA Leader, October 2002, Vol. 7, 15. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR3sb.07182002.15
The ASHA Leader, October 2002, Vol. 7, 15. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR3sb.07182002.15
Poor physical health status combined with hearing loss places older adults at greater risk for developing functional disabilities, including the loss of independence and autonomy. Decreased auditory function in medically frail older adults also may affect their ability or willingness to participate in their own audiologic rehabilitation. Interestingly, older adults with chronic health conditions often deny hearing loss, or give it little importance, because they are preoccupied with medical problems requiring immediate attention. It is critical, however, that audiologic rehabilitation issues continue to be addressed so that patients maintain adequate communication with caregivers including family, friends, and health care workers.
Tips for working with older adults who are medically frail and have a hearing loss:
  • Educate other health care professionals about the consequences of hearing loss. This includes interference with medical management and compliance with recommendations and therapeutic interventions received from a variety of health care providers, such as physical therapists, respiratory therapists, and social workers.

  • Provide caregivers with instruction about the use of strategies to improve communication, such as facing the patient, getting the patient’s attention by gently touching the shoulder, and using a slower rate while speaking.

  • Be aware of the side effects of certain medications. They may cause changes in hearing and balance, increase tinnitus, or cause behavioral side effects that interfere with the rehabilitation process.

  • Be aware that decreased pain sensitivity and increased wound healing time may affect earmold and hearing aid fittings. Conduct otoscopic examinations regularly to evaluate skin irritation and condition.

  • Inform the patient, family, and other health care providers about the use of assistive listening devices for improving face-to-face communication by using personal listening systems or telephone communication by using in-line amplifiers.

  • Use infection control procedures for the safety of both the patient and the audiologist.

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October 2002
Volume 7, Issue 18