Hearing Aids Can Help Improve Balance

Do you feel unsteady on your feet, have trouble walking in the dark or seem as though you might lose balance when taking a workout class at Gigi’s Downtown? In many cases, balance problems are linked to hearing loss. Fortunately, hearing aids may be able to treat both conditions.

Hearing Loss & Balance Problems Are Closely Linked

According to research from Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging, having hearing loss puts you at greater risk of experiencing a fall.

To uncover this, researchers examined data collected between 2001 and 2004 for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. For the survey, over 2,000 participants between the ages of 40 and 69 underwent hearing and balance tests and answered questions about their history of falling.

The researchers found that those with mild hearing loss were three times more likely to experience a fall compared to participants with normal hearing. In addition, for every 10 decibels of hearing loss, the risk increases by 140%.

According to lead researcher Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., there are two likely reasons for this:

  • On one hand, hearing loss may make people less aware of their surroundings, putting them at increased risk of tripping and falling.
  • On the other, hearing loss may increase cognitive load, meaning the brain is so focused on helping you hear there are few resources left to help with balance.

How Hearing Aids Can Help Maintain Balance

Another study examined the effect of hearing aids on postural stability. This study was conducted by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis and published in the journal The Laryngoscope.

For this study, researchers worked with 14 participants with hearing loss ages 65 to 91. They tested their balance using standard tests two times, once while the participants had their hearing aids turned on and once while the devices were turned off.

Overall, the participants performed much better with their hearing aids on, suggesting they were using auditory cues to stay balanced. This is the first study of its kind to uncover this connection.

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