Preventing Falls by Treating Hearing Loss

Preventing Falls by Treating Hearing Loss

In Hearing Loss, Overall Health by Dr. Jason Leyendecker

Dr. Jason Leyendecker

A regular fitness routine will almost always increase your health and vitality, but as we age it becomes more important than ever to stay fit. Regular cardiovascular and strength building exercise can increase muscles which help us stay balanced.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that “about 36 million falls are reported among older adults each year—resulting in more than 32,000 deaths.” Often a fall is the first step towards health issues in older adults which progress into decreased mobility and health complications which can start a slow decline towards morbidity. 

One way that you can help to stay active and prevent falls as we age is managing our vision and hearing. It is incredibly normal for vision to decline, even for people with good vision in the mid 40’s. Meanwhile the risk of hearing loss increases significantly as we age. One in four people, 60 years and older suffer from a hearing loss, however this number rises to one in three within 5 years. By the time we are 75 or older, one in two people will have a hearing loss which interferes with spatial awareness and increases the risk of falls.

Falls: A Serious Issue as We Age

Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death for older adults. For adults, the risk can be further increased due to higher rates of arthritis and osteoporosis, which affects the strength of our bones. A simple fall which we may have bounced back from when we were younger may surprisingly lead to broken legs, hips, wrists, or arms. These injuries can take longer to heal from and can lead to a more sedentary lifestyle and lasting mobility issues. In addition, weakened bones and muscles can lead to head injuries or even death due to an unexpected fall.

Hearing Loss and Balance Issues

The functions which control hearing, and balance are located in the same region in the head and brain and work similarly to each other. This interconnection can mean that a hearing issue can decrease our ability to stay balanced. For one thing, when we hear, it allows us to stay alert of our surroundings. We not only use sound to hear the people around us and respond, but to localize sounds. This means we are able to hear sounds approaching and can react accordingly. When hearing loss sets in it can affect our reaction time to approaching sounds creating twice the risk of accidents and falls.

Undiagnosed Hearing Loss and A Higher Rate of Work-Related Accidents

People often think that hearing loss only happens to older adults, however it is estimated that 22 million people in the United States in the workforce have hearing loss. This can lead to higher rates of work-related intendants affecting not only your safety but that of your coworkers when hearing loss goes untreated. This can increase the likelihood of misunderstood instructions, leading to more mistakes at work or missing an emergency until it is too late, leading to higher rates of accidents.

Addressing a Hearing Loss to Reduce the Risk of Falls and Accidents

While hearing loss is a permanent condition it can be addressed using hearing aids. These digital devices sit in or around the ear canal and help amplify the sounds you can’t hear. To better understand the benefits of hearing aids in increasing reliance on balance, a 2014 study from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that when hearing aids were used, balance was improved. They determined that hearing aids improved balance by reducing cognitive stress on the ear’s vestibular system, the part of the body which aids in maintaining equilibrium and determining the level of the head.

Set up A Hearing Exam Today!

Getting older can be a beautiful process when you stay proactive around your health. This means that it is important to schedule regular hearing exams to stay on top of a hearing loss before it can affect your ability to stay mobile and independent. To find out more contact us today to set up a hearing exam. We can diagnose any issue with hearing that may exist and address them before they can impact your mobility and quality of life.