September 15, 2019

New Funding: The impact of hearing loss on hospital readmissions

Funding from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation will enable further research on the connection between untreated hearing loss and rehospitalization

Philip Zazove, M.D.
Philip Zazove, M.D., principal investigator

Is undiagnosed or untreated hearing loss (HL) associated with increased hospital readmissions? Initial data suggests this might be true. Philip Zazove, M.D., professor and the George A. Dean, M.D. Chair of Family Medicine, and his research team will investigate this potential connection in a new study funded by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation. They will evaluate the impact of treated and untreated HL status on readmission rates by tracking adult inpatients ages 55 and over, at two major southeast Michigan hospitals. Over a six month period, the research team will evaluate hospitalized patients for HL using both a questionnaire and doing an audiogram. The patients will then be followed over time to determine their 30-day readmission rate. Zazove and his team will include demographic, medical and other data from the electronic medical records as well as health literacy, social and other data in their analysis. 

This study builds on Zazove’s team’s work on the health impacts of untreated HL. Previous studies, which included fellow MDisabililty researchers Michael M. McKee, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor and Elham Mahmoudi, M.B.A, Ph.D., assistant professor, include an analysis of Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) data, which found that patients with HL who used hearing aids had an 8% lower risk of any emergency visit and a 9% lower relative risk of any hospitalization. It was published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery in June 2018. Additional research includes Zazove’s Early Auditory Referral in Primary Care (EAR-PC) study investigating how to identify untreated HL through the use of effective best practice alerts in the electronic medical record system, and McKee’s examination of the social determinants of hearing aid use.

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