Hearing Loss Triples Risk of Falling
Researchers report, those with mild hearing loss (25 decibels) are three times more likely to have a history of falling as compared with those with normal hearing, and for every additional 10 decibels of hearing loss, the likelihood of falling increases by 1.4 (Lin and Ferrucci, 2012). The study was completed at the John Hopkins School of Medicine and the National Institute of Aging on over 2000 adults between the ages of 40 and 69.
Falls are responsible for numerous injuries and deaths among Americans 65 and older. The issue of falls is a health concern, generating billions of dollars in healthcare expenses due to extended hospital stays, surgical interventions and related treatments. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2013) sates one out of three adults age 65 and older fall each year, and falls continue to be the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries.
Possible reasons for the relationship between falling and hearing loss:
• Hearing loss decreases one’s awareness of the surrounding environment.
• Those with hearing loss may not hear pets or people around them, increasing the potential to trip and fall (Lin and Ferrucci, 2012).
• Cognitive issues increase in those with hearing loss, and cognitive overload can be a hindrance to balance (USNews, 2012).
• There is a relationship between hearing and balance function. The vestibular function of the inner ear provides sensory information about spatial orientation, motion and equilibrium (Lin and Ferrucci, 2012).
• Those with hearing loss are using more of their mental resources to hear and interpret speech and may have fewer resources left over to dedicate to maintaining balance (USNews, 2012).
• Cochlear disorders which include vestibular dysfunction could lead to poor balance (Lin and Ferrucci, 2012).
It is well-documented that untreated hearing loss can lead to a myriad of health and safety issues. Research is on-going, but it is reasonable to be aware of the link between hearing loss and falls. We recommend having your hearing tested annually and encourage people with hearing loss to wear their hearing aids.
The Center for Disease Control & Prevention. (2013). Home and recreational safety fall: Falls among older adults, an overview.
Lin, F. & Ferrucci, L. (2012). Hearing loss and falls amoung older adults in the United States. JAMA Internal Medicine.
USNews. (2012). Hearing loss triples risk of falling: Study. Retrieved from http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2012/02/27/hearing-loss-triples-ridk-of-falling-study