Falls are responsible for numerous injuries and deaths among Americans aged 65 and older. Those with hearing loss have an increased risk of falling, therefore, it is important to take the proper steps to avoid damaging falls.
FALLS FROM HEARING LOSS CAN LEAD TO INJURIES AND HOSPITALIZATION.
Older individuals will commonly experience brain injuries, hip and other bone fractures as a result of a fall. Not only can this be devastating for the individual who experiences a fall, but these serious conditions generate billions of dollars in healthcare expenses due to extended hospital stays, surgeries to correct injuries and other related intervention treatment.
In 2016, a group of researchers at Johns Hopkins performed a systemic review of medical research databases to evaluate a correlation between hearing loss and falls. The results found that the odds of falling were 2.39 times greater among the elderly population with hearing loss than compared to those individuals with no evidence of hearing loss. The results of this review revealed that hearing loss is associated with significantly increased odds of falling in older adults.
Dr. Frank Lin, an otologist and epidemiologist, conducted a study along with other researchers to determine the connection between untreated hearing loss and falls. The lead researchers reported that those individuals who had been diagnosed with a mild hearing loss (25 decibels) were nearly three times as likely to have a history of falling. Each additional 10 dB of hearing loss increases the likelihood of falling by 1.4.
Dr. Lin suggested the following as possible reasons for the link between hearing loss and falls:
Individuals who do not hear well may lose awareness of their environment which increases the potential to trip and fall.
Cognitive load increases in those individuals who have hearing loss. The brain is overloaded with demands to maintain balance and gait while straining to hear and process auditory input.
Cochlear disorders may include vestibular dysfunction which leads to poor balance.
It is important these patients seek treatment for hearing loss as part of an overall strategy to preserve good health and a good quality of life. This includes:
Annual hearing exams by a hearing care professional.
If a hearing loss is present, be fit with hearing aids that are professionally prescribed based on the patient’s hearing loss and needs.
Routine follow-up to verify hearing and balance performance.