Treating Hearing Loss May Help Prevent Falls & Accidents

June 30, 2023
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Even when you plan, accidents are bound to happen every now and then. In fact, one out of every 20 deaths in the United States are the result of an accident, and the cause of an estimated 30 million emergency room visits annually. While we can’t always stop accidents from happening, there are many ways we can reduce the risk, especially as we age.

Each year, 36 million falls occur among older adults aged 65 and older and one out of five falls results in serious injuries including broken bones or a head injury. To reduce this increased risk, it is important to stay up to date on your health. While people rarely think twice about visiting their general practitioner each year for a checkup or keeping up with dental care, hearing is often an area that goes forgotten. Even so, the risk of hearing loss increases significantly past the age of 65 affecting one in three! 

Hearing Loss In Your Environment

Hearing loss is a communication issue, making it hard to connect to the people you encounter every day from people you’ve known your whole life, to those you’ve just met. However, beyond the impact on conversation is a decreased awareness of sounds around you. This can make you less aware of your surroundings and limit your ability to react to sounds around you.

When you consider how hearing loss decreases your awareness of sound, it may not seem so serious at first.  However, as our reaction time is depleted it increases our risk of injury significantly. When we are behind the wheel, we may miss the honking of a horn or a subtle engine noise which can alert us to break—however due to a hearing loss we may not react in time leading to dangerous injuries not only for us, but other people on the road. As a pedestrian we may be less aware of a bike or runner approaching from behind. We may miss a siren alarm or more, until it’s too late— leading to injuries which can set us back in ways as older adults which take more time to heal from—or send us on a path of long-term impairment.

Balance Problems

Not only does hearing loss decrease our ability to detect warning sounds in a timely manner but is deeply entwined with our sense of balance. In fact, the auditory cortex is located in the same part of the skull as the vestibular system and uses similar methods to communicate with the brain. The vestibular system is a labyrinth of fluid filled tubes which send information about the plane of our head to the brain via tiny hairlike receptor cells. This is like the auditory system which uses tiny hairlike cells to transform audio signals into electrical impulses which can be received by the brain. Issues with balance such as dizziness or vertigo often signal issues with hearing as well since both systems share similar resources and are located side by side. When your balance is thrown off you are more likely to suffer accidents and fall. 

Studies Connecting Hearing Loss and an Increased Risk of Falls

To determine the connection between falls and hearing loss d, Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., at Johns Hopkins, examined data from the 2001 to 2004 cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Over the span of these years, 2,017 participants ages 40 to 69 had their hearing tested and answered questions about whether they had fallen over the past year. 

Lin, found that people with a 25-decibel hearing loss, classified as mild, were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling. Every additional 10-decibels of hearing loss increased the chances of falling by 1.4 fold!

Seek Treatment Now

One way that you can reduce your risk of falls is by taking action now and scheduling a hearing exam. By monitoring your hearing early, you can catch a hearing loss before it can progress to the point where it puts your personal safety at risk. You can’t prevent every accident that is bound to happen, but by addressing a hearing loss early you can certainly lower your chances, allowing you to age gracefully feeling as good as possible for years to come. Contact us to schedule your next hearing exam today!