What you should know about your risk of falling if you have hearing loss

What you should know about your risk of falling if you have hearing loss

According to studies in Archives of Internal Medicine, the risk of falling is increased by 40% with every 10dB loss of hearing. Although this information has been researched and speculated for some time, it becomes crucial for us to consider this trend when we know people with hearing loss. This is especially important for our seniors.

How does hearing impact our balance?

It is speculated that our nervous system (specifically, the brain’s pathways) interact in such a way that one may experience “incident falls.” There are pathways which are believed to be responsible for encoding auditory and spatial information for our environmental awareness. Also, it is believed that there are pathways which incorporate auditory input into cognition and attention. To put it another way; hearing loss reduces our ability to take advantage of the auditory cues needed for knowing critical information about our surroundings. Therefore, we may fall and/or stumble more often.

As a result of a system which is losing function (i.e. hearing loss), this information suggests that there may be a possible causal relationship between hearing loss and falling. This is of interest because hearing loss has been known to be a highly prevalent experience, but is often left untreated or undertreated, for older adults.

It is also known that the inner ear contains significant portions of the hearing and balance systems. If one becomes compromised, it is possible that the other may also be affected.

You don’t have to be “dizzy” or “just not hear well.” Although hearing and balance changes are associated with age, they are unlikely to happen “just because one is getting older.” Relief is possible. There are many treatments available. It is important to have a discussion with your ENT/otologist about your hearing and/or balance problems. They may ask you to visit an audiologist for further evaluation if they feel it is important for improving your overall health and daily lifestyle activities.

Comments
Candace McCutcheon
This is so helpful and it explains yet another reason for some frequent falls I've been having in my recent past. It has been very enlightening. Thank you Dr. Hill.
I also do photography and lately I've noticed a slight crookedness in some of my recent work -- perhaps my damaged left ear problem as well?
Also, in my most recent fall, I just broke my wrist, so I need to keep this short as it is very difficult for me to type right now.
5/10/2013 4:43:38 AM
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