Untreated hearing loss can take a toll on health in a variety of ways. In addition to straining communication and making conversations challenging to navigate, hearing loss increases health risks. This includes increasing the risk of falling – research shows that people with hearing loss can be three times more likely to experience falls compared to people without an impaired hearing. Falls contribute to sustaining accidental injuries, increased health care costs, and potential issues with mobility. Treating hearing loss reduces this risk by increasing spatial awareness and safety which contribute to preventing falls.
Link Between Falls & Hearing Loss
Untreated hearing loss produces a range of symptoms and effects that impact daily life. Research shows that it can increase the risk of falls, affecting physical safety. Several studies reveal a significant correlation between hearing loss and fall, including two of the following major studies:
- Johns Hopkins University Study: to examine the correlation between hearing loss and falls, researchers assessed data provided by a national survey. This data set included results from hearing tests and a questionnaire that assessed a history of falling for 3 years for 2,107 people (ages 40-69). Researchers found that people with hearing loss were more likely to have a history of falling. Specifically people with:
- mild hearing loss was nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling.
- an increase of hearing loss by 10-decibels also increased the risk of falling by 1.4 times.
- University of Michigan Study: this study included nearly 115,000 participants, ages 66 and older. Participants included people who were recently diagnosed with hearing loss and people without the condition. Key findings included:
- 13% of people experienced a fall within three years of being diagnosed with hearing loss, compared to 7.5% of people without hearing loss.
These findings highlight that people with hearing loss experience a much greater risk of falling than people without. But how exactly can hearing loss cause a fall?
How Does Hearing Loss Cause Falls?
There are a few ways hearing loss that remains untreated can contribute to experiencing a fall. Experts suggest that this increased risk of falls can be caused attributed to:
- Balance issues: the sensory system that is responsible for how we maintain balance is housed in the inner ear. The vestibular system includes semicircular canals and nerves that send information related to balance and head motion to the brain. The inner ear is also where most cases of hearing loss occur. Damaged hair cells in the inner ear are most often what produces impaired hearing. This can also impact the vestibular system which creates challenges with maintaining balance, increasing the risk of falling.
- Less spatial awareness: hearing loss results in a reduced capacity to detect and process sound. This makes it easier to miss warning signs and hazards in a given environment – sirens, voices, and other noises that indicate you should be cautious. This decreases spatial awareness which also makes falling more likely.
Treating hearing loss offers countless benefits. This includes alleviating hearing loss symptoms and maximizing hearing capacity which reduces the risk of falls.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 1 in 4 adults, ages 65 and older experience a fall every year. This same age group is disproportionately impacted by hearing loss. Nearly 1 in 3 adults ages 65 – 74, and 1 in 2 adults ages 75 and older have some degree of hearing loss. These statistics emphasize the importance of addressing hearing loss and protecting overall health.
Fortunately, treating hearing loss today involves a noninvasive process that is accessible. The first step is to schedule an appointment to have your hearing tested with a hearing healthcare specialist. This process is painless and involves assessing hearing capacity in each ear. Hearing tests identify any hearing loss and the degree of impairment you could be experiencing. This establishes your hearing needs which informs treatment options that can effectively meet those needs.
The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids which are electronic devices that are equipped with innovative technology that absorbs, amplifies and processes sound. Hearing aids provide profound support, making it easier to hear and understand speech as well as sound. This not only maximizes hearing capacity but also strengthens communication and improves overall health. Hearing aids decrease health risks associated with untreated hearing loss like experiencing falls.
The life-changing benefits of treatment start with a simple step. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing consultation.