When you think of the risks of untreated hearing loss, what comes to mind? Many would mention missing important alarm sounds like the smoke detector, strained relationships due to communication barriers and anxiety about mishearing important information. What many don’t know is that untreated hearing loss is linked to balance issues.
If lately, you feel as off-balance walking around your house as you would trying to trek across AZ Ice Arcadia in your slippers, it may be due to hearing loss.
About the Study
Researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the National Institute of Aging sought to uncover the nature of the link between hearing loss and falls among the elderly. The study is entitled “Hearing Loss and Falls Among Older Adults in the United States” and was published in Archives of Internal Medicine in 2013.
For the study, researchers assessed data from 2,017 people ages 40 to 69. They gathered data about both hearing and vestibular (balance system) function. Of the total number of participants, 14.3% had hearing loss above 25 dB, and 4.9% had reported at least one fall over the previous year.
The Results & Why They Matter
Study authors found that even those with mild hearing loss have triple the risk of an accidental fall compared to those with normal hearing. For every additional 10 dB of hearing loss, this risk increases by 140%.
The researchers have several hypotheses about the nature of this link. One reason may be that people with hearing loss have less awareness of their environment, and can more easily trip over a pet or something else that goes undetected.
Another reason may be that people with hearing loss experience cognitive overload; in other words, they have to use more of their mental resources to hear and make sense of information, leaving less brainpower to help them balance and orient themselves in space.
“The magnitude of the association of hearing loss with falls is clinically-significant,” reported study authors. “Our findings are consistent with prior research studies that have utilized both self-reported and audiometric measures of hearing and have demonstrated associations between hearing loss with balance function and incident falls.”
For more information about the link between hearing loss and balance problems or to schedule an appointment with an expert, call Arizona Desert ENT Specialists today.