Studies on Hearing Loss and Injuries

Studies on Hearing Loss and Injuries

Gulf Gate Hearing Aid Center / March 28, 2022

When we are younger and we fall, we often get right back up again, unscathed. However, as we grow older, our bodies become less resilient. Even a small fall, can lead to hospitalization and chronic injury. Another common condition that affects us as we age is our hearing. Of those 65 or older one in three are affected. Of those 75 and older half have hearing loss. Now, a growing body of research suggests that hearing loss contributes to falls and accidents often leading to more serious issues. 

Older Adults and Falls

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that over one in four people age 65 or older suffer falls every year in the US. The CDC goes on to say that “about 36 million falls are reported among older adults each year—resulting in more than 32,000 deaths. Each year, about 3 million older adults are treated in emergency departments for a fall injury.” Many factors increase the risk of falling, and even more as we age.  

 

It’s common for seniors to suffer mobility problems, osteoporosis, diabetes, balance disorders, impaired vision, and of course hearing loss. Many falls cause at least some injury which can range in severity from mild bruising to broken bones, head injuries, or even death. Often for seniors, a fall marks the beginning of a fatal decline in vitality. Often a fall is enough to frighten a person away from being active which can begin a dangerous cycle: You move less, you become weaker, and the chances you’ll fall again increase.

Connecting Hearing and Balance

What is the connection between hearing loss and a greater risk of falls? Well for one thing the vestibular system, which is responsible for reporting the position of your head to your brain is located within the inner ear. A fluid-filled organ called the cochlea houses tiny hair-like cells called stereocilia. When we tilt our head from side to side, the fluid in the cochlea bends the stereocilia, which reports your position to the brain. Infections, blockages, or tumors can often be enough to affect your equilibrium and cause vertigo, nausea, and dizziness. Both hearing and balance share a common nerve pathway to the brain. However, hearing can affect the risk of falls in other ways.

Hearing loss increases the risk of falls

Even mild hearing loss can affect fall risk. A mild hearing loss is classified as the lowest amount and is rarely even treated. However, it can triple your chances of falling, according to a study of people aged 40 to 69. This is believed to be caused by a loss of sensory perception making you less aware of your environment. Hearing helps us follow conversation and connect to others, but it plays another important role. Hearing loss helps us be more aware of our environment. We hear with two ears and this is called binaural hearing. Depending on the direction of the sound, our ears can determine the direction, estimate the distance, and even the oncoming speed. This can be all the difference when detecting and avoiding a potential accident such as oncoming traffic, a biker, or an unanticipated obstacle. 

Cognitive Overload

Another reason many experts believe hearing loss could be an issue affecting falls is the extra cognitive energy required. When you struggle to hear, parts of words and words in sentences are lost. This means when you socialize, even a minor interaction requires your brain to work harder to fill in gaps. This can take your concentration away from your surroundings and stay upright, as well as exhaust you.

How to prevent falls

There is no foolproof way to prevent falls but the more active you are the better. Exercise regularly. Strong muscles can provide more support to help keep you upright.

Another strategy may be to fall-proof your home. Make sure carpets and railing are secure and that your home is well lit. You may also want to install grab bars near the toilet bath and shower. 

Treat your hearing loss

If you have a hearing loss don’t let it go untreated. Hearing aids can improve your awareness of the environment and help you to avoid falls. To find out more schedule a hearing consultation today.

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