Did you know that people with hearing loss can be more than three times more likely to experience falls? Falls can cause major accidental injuries, mobility challenges, and increased healthcare costs. This can be prevented by treating hearing loss which offers countless benefits including increasing spatial awareness and greater capacity to navigate daily environments with greater safety.
Link Between Hearing Loss & Falls
Research shows that hearing loss can lead to experiencing more falls. Several studies show that people with hearing loss are more likely to fall than those without hearing loss. The following two studies highlight this correlation:
- Johns Hopkins University Study: Researchers investigated the relationship between hearing loss and falls by analyzing data provided from a national survey. This 3-year survey included hearing test results as well as information from a questionnaire that assessed histories of falling for 2,017 participants, ages 40-69. Researchers found that people with mild hearing loss were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling. Additionally, they found that for every additional 10-decibel increase in hearing loss, the risk of falling increased by 1.4 times.
- University of Michigan Study: this study involved 115,000 participants, with and without hearing loss, who were 66 years and older. Researchers found that among the people who were recently diagnosed with hearing loss:
- 13% experienced a fall within three years of their hearing loss diagnosis. Compared to 7.5% of people without hearing loss.
The findings from both studies reveal that people with hearing loss are significantly more likely to experience falls. These studies also show that the greater the hearing loss, the more likely one can be to have a history of falling.
How Hearing Loss Contributes to Falls
Hearing loss contributes to falls in a few ways. Untreated hearing loss reduces the capacity to hear and process sound which produces a wide range of symptoms. These symptoms make it challenging to hear clearly, resulting in:
- Reduced Spatial Awareness: difficulty hearing includes not being able to hear everything happening in one’s environment. This includes hazards or warning signs like sirens, honks, and other voices. This results in less spatial awareness and not being fully in tune with what is happening around you, increasing the risk of experiencing an accident or fall.
- Cognitive Overload: hearing loss means that the brain is receiving less auditory information. This forces the brain to then work harder in trying to process and understand speech as well as sound. This additional labor and effort are disproportionately focused on processing sound, straining other areas, and cognitive functions. This includes fewer cognitive resources for balance and spatial awareness.
- Challenges with Balance: hearing loss can also directly affect balance. The vestibular system is responsible for maintaining balance. Consisting of structures in the inner ear, this area is also where hearing loss most often occurs. This can impact the vestibular system’s capacity to send information about head motion, spatial orientation, and movement to the brain which is how we can maintain balance.
These effects of hearing loss can be alleviated through treatment which not only maximizes hearing but can strengthen brain health and enhance safety.
Prevent Falls by Treating Hearing Loss
Treating hearing loss can drastically improve daily life in countless ways, including improving overall safety. Hearing loss is most commonly treated with hearing aids – medical devices that are designed to absorb, amplify, and process sound. This provides the ears and brain with ample support, making it easier to hear. Maximized hearing capacity has numerous benefits including an increased ability to navigate daily settings with greater comfort and safety. People are more equipped to hear, process, and respond to environmental hazards. Additionally, treating hearing loss strengthens cognitive functions, including those related to balance and motion. These specific benefits increase spatial and self-awareness, reducing the risk of experiencing falls and accidental injuries.
You can take the first step towards treating hearing loss with one simple step: schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation. This involves having your hearing tested which is a critical way to understand your hearing needs. Hearing tests involve a noninvasive and painless process that measures your hearing capacity in both ears. Once we identify the specifics of your hearing loss, we can tailor treatment to meet your specific needs. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.