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Staying active and eating a healthy diet supports our muscles and bones and this inevitably will keep us stronger supporting our balance as we age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one out of four older adults will fall each year in the United States, making falls a public health concern, particularly as we grow older. About 36 million falls are reported among older adults each year—resulting in more than 32,000 deaths. There are many functions which contribute to a heightened risk of falls in seniors including the risk of falling increases with age for many reasons, including overall weakness and frailty, balance problems, cognitive problems, vision problems, medications, acute illness, and other environmental hazards. Another often overlooked source of balance issue may be hearing loss.

Falls are a Serious and Common Issue Among Older Adults.

When we are younger our bones are often stronger and muscles more resilient. However as we age a fall can often result in broken bones, head injuries, and even death. This is due to loss of bone mass and high rates of osteoporosis. In the United States, an estimated 10 million people age 50 years and older have osteoporosis. It’s important to do what we can to keep ourselves or the older adults we care for to be as safe as possible. Surprisingly addressing hearing loss can make a significant different in protecting our loved ones against falls

Connecting hearing and balance 

We hear with our ears, but our ears have more functions beyond this. In addition to sending sound to the brain, within the inner ear is the vestibular system – a fluid filled maze like organ which informs our brain of the position of our head. This is an essential tool of the body to stay balanced. While the apparatus which send sound to the brain are separate to those which inform balance, an issue with one may be connected to damage in the other. For instance, if you have an ear infection, the access of fluid my inhibit hearing as well as cause dizziness and vertigo.

Another way in which our hearing informs balance is our audio connection to the world. Our ears not only follow speech and interpret conversation, but they keep us alert of the sounds around us. We hear binaurally, which means using two ears in order to source the localization of sound. If sound comes from the right or left the closest ear will pick up the sound first and inform our brain of the direction of that sounds.

Saftey Issues With Hearing Loss and Balance Issues

When sound is blocked from reaching the ear this causes hearing loss. This can make us less aware of our surroundings which is why those who live with unaddressed and untreated hearing loss are more susceptible to falls and accidents which could lead to hospitalization or even death in older adults. This becomes a liability in a working environment increasing the risk for work accidents. If you can’t hear your acoworkers or supervisors, it can increase the risk of:

  • misunderstand instructions, leading to mistakes
  • An increase of errors in the workplace due to misheard instructions.
  • Slower reaction time to emergency
  • Likeliness to miss problems before they become emergencies, which quickly becomes a safety concern for everyone in the entire workplace.

Treating hearing loss could reduce accidents and falls.

To solidify the connection between an increased risk of falls and hearing loss a 2014 study from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis observed that when hearing aids were turned on, patients with hearing aids in both ears did better on standard balance tests than when hearing aids were turned off.

Come and see us for a hearing test!

When you invest in your hearing health with hearing aids, they can help you stay more alert in your everyday environment. You’ll hear the dangle of the collar of the household pet or be more aware of the fire alarm going off so you can react in time. If you suspect you have a hearing issue don’t wait until it turns into a fall or accident. Schedule a hearing exam with us today and stay on top of your overall health now!