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How poor hearing has been shown to cause many medical errors

A recent study conducted by researchers at Cork School of Medicine suggests that many medical errors may need to be reassessed. They found that doctors are blamed far too often for patients’ worsening health conditions when it’s really the fault of the patient for not properly following his or her doctor’s orders.

The study, which was published in the August edition of the JAMA Otolaryngology journal, suggests that hearing difficulties, especially among older patients, may be the blame for many medical errors instead.

Of 100 different patients polled that were age 60 or older, the researchers maintain that at least 43 of them reported having misunderstood their nurses or doctors. These instances involving the patients not properly hearing their medical providers occurred in either community or inpatient patient care settings. The patients in this case admitted that their lack of quality hearing left them susceptible to suffering unintended errors.

Researchers who spearheaded an earlier study had already determined that medical errors could be reduced by as much as 36 percent if medical personnel and families communicated more effectively. They found that it wasn’t necessarily important for doctors to speak any louder as much as it was critical for them to find a way to speak to patients, families and other medical staff away from background noise.

As for medical personnel who regularly work with older populations, the researchers note that they need to keep in mind that hearing loss impacts both the patient’s ability to process information and to remember it.

They even note that, in cases in which patients have been shown to have hearing loss, they fail to get fitted with a hearing aid to help with it. This makes them particularly susceptible to not hearing critical instructions that are passed on to them.

While hearing loss may be to blame for medical errors among older generations, if a doctor’s aware of his or her patient’s condition, there are alternatives that be relied upon in conveying information to him or her. If you or a loved one has fallen victim to a suspected case of doctor error, then you may benefit from discussing the details of your case with a Chicago medical malpractice attorney.

Source: Chicago Tribune, “Patients' hearing loss may mean poorer medical care,” Steven Reinberg, Aug. 29, 2017

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