Hearing Loss & Risk Of Falling…
For older people, having a fall can be very frightening and can lead to some rather severe injuries. As we age, our hearing and balance both naturally decline. A growing body of research is now suggesting that hearing loss could be contributing to an increased risk of falling. Even if these falls do not cause injury, they can still be scary and can often lead to individuals retreating to a chair and avoiding getting up, creating a negative cycle by making us weaker and therefore more prone to falling.
How Hearing Loss Affects Balance
Studies show that our hearing can directly affect our balance, and it can be especially worse if our balance is not that great to begin with. Some research suggests that particular noises can act as an “auditory anchor” and can help us to balance. Therefore, if you can’t hear these noises, your balance may be weaker and could lead to more falls. For more information on this study, click here.
Unfortunately, even a mild hearing loss can start to increase our risk of falling. A 25dB hearing loss can triple your chances of falling according to a study of people aged 40-69.
Another study found that out of 115,000 seniors newly diagnosed with hearing loss (but otherwise healthy), 13% had a fall related injury in the past three years, compared to just 7.5% of people with no hearing loss. This same study also suggests that the use of hearing aids can actually delay the likelihood of injurious falls.
- Hearing loss can often force us to concentrate more on listening to different sounds, which could mean we have less mental resources available for balance.
- Ageing affects our hearing and balance, and age-related hearing loss may be related to a decline in the vestibular sense, which could cause you to become dizzy more often.
- Sounds can sometimes help us balance. If you are trying to balance on one leg, someone might suggest focusing on a single spot to aid your balance. The same principle applies to stable sounds; they can act as an “auditory anchor”, as mentioned above. However, you have to be able to hear a stable sound to focus on it. Therefore, people with hearing loss may struggle to do this and it could result in poorer balance.
Preventing A Bad Fall…
- Try to keep moving. Walking and balance exercises can help to strengthen our muscles and can help us become less prone to falling.
- 1 hour Tai-Chi classes 1-3 times per week can cut the risk of a bad fall in HALF.
- Resistance exercises or some light weight exercises can help strengthen your bones; so if you do fall, it is less likely to result in a severe injury.
- Using a hearing aid for the first time can reduce the chances of having a fall related injury by 13%. However the research does not suggest that they make you more stable, but it is possible that they can act as a balance aid.
Overall, if you are concerned about your balance or are worried about your risk of falling, and you notice your hearing has deteriorated, getting your hearing checked and receiving intervention such as a hearing aid might make a positive difference. If this sounds like you, please do not hesitate to give us a call on 01223 360700 to book a Full Hearing Test, or click here for our online booking page.