I Can't Hear You, Doc: A Common Cause of Medical Errors


Medical errors are more common in older patients, and the leading cause for these errors is believed to be a failure in communication between doctor and patient. In fact, research shows that improved communication between patients’ families and health care providers could prevent 36 percent of medical errors.

According to a study published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, older adults frequently report mishearing a physician or nurse in primary care or hospital settings, contributing to miscommunication. For the study, researchers at University College Cork in Ireland analyzed interview data collected from 100 adults over age 60 to examine communication breakdowns in health care settings among those with hearing loss.

Of the study participants, 57 reported some degree of hearing loss and 26 used a hearing aid. Forty-three percent reported having misheard a medical professional. Scenarios included general mishearing, mishearing consultation content, and physician-patient or nurse-patient communication breakdown.

Sourced from: JAMA Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery