One-fourth of Americans age 65+ will fall every year1. If you have hearing loss, your risk for falling greatly increases. In a study2 conducted at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Dr. Frank Lin assessed hearing and balance in seniors and found that those with even mild hearing loss were three times more likely to suffer from an accidental fall.
How are hearing loss and falling related?
Your inner ear is a key player when it comes to balance. It provides signals to your brain that control your spatial reasoning, range of motion, and equilibrium – all vital functions for balance. If there is an issue with your inner ear, those balance functions may not work as they should, putting you at an increased risk of falling.
Untreated hearing loss puts added strain on your brain to decipher sound signals. This is commonly referred to as ‘cognitive load.’ If your brain is using more energy to try to hear, ‘there may be fewer cognitive resources to help maintain balance,’ says Dr. Lin.
Can hearing aids reduce my risk of falling?
Yes! A Washington University School of Medicine study3 found that participants had better balance when their hearing aids were turned on vs off. Research Dr. Timothy Hullar’s hunch is that hearing aids made people more alert and helped them ‘use sound information as auditory reference points or landmarks to help maintain balance.’ Not only that, but using hearing aids also relives cognitive load, reducing the risk of falling.
Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury in older adults. There are many things you can do to reduce your risk of falling, including getting treatment for hearing loss. Think you may have hearing loss? Take our online hearing quiz or call to schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional today!
1National Council on Aging - https://d2mkcg26uvg1cz.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/Falls-Prevention-Fact-Sheet-2018.pdf
2Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine - https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/hearing_loss_linked_to_three_fold_risk_of_falling
3Washington University https://source.wustl.edu/2014/12/hearing-aids-may-improve-balance/