Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) is the loss of hearing that gradually occurs in most of us as we grow older. It is one of the most common conditions affecting older and elderly adults which leads to mishearing a physician or nurse.
There is no known single cause of age-related hearing loss. Most commonly, it is caused by changes in the inner ear. It was not uncommon for older adults to report mishearing a physician or nurse in a primary care or hospital setting, according to a study published by JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. The prevalence of medical errors is higher among older patients. Failures in clinical communication are considered to be the leading cause of medical errors.
A previous study reported that improved communication between the medical teams and families could have prevented 36 percent of medical errors. Colm M. P. O'Tuathaigh, B.A., Ph.D., of University College Cork, Cork, Ireland and colleagues conducted an analysis of interview data collected in 100 adults 60 years and older to examine communication breakdown in hospital and primary care settings among adults reporting hearing loss.
"This qualitative analysis confirms that age-related hearing loss has a negative effect on clinical communication across both hospital and primary care clinical settings," the authors write. "We recommend that content-related and setting-related factors identified as barriers to communication in adults with hearing impairment be incorporated within a patient-centered approach to clinical communication with this patient population."