We all know that untreated hearing loss causes difficulty communicating, whether it’s with your closest loved ones or the waiter at your favorite restaurant. But did you know that hearing loss can also increase your risk of a fall-related injury? We explore this link below.
The Link Between Hearing Loss & Falls
Even a mild hearing loss is associated with an elevated risk of falling, as one study from Johns Hopkins published in 2013 shows. This study found that even hearing loss at 25 decibels, which means trouble hearing sounds like breathing, rustling leaves and whispering, triples your risk of falling.
This is confirmed by another study by the University of Michigan published in 2019. For this study, researchers analyzed data from nearly 115,000 healthy seniors. They found that 13% of those with hearing loss had experienced a fall within the previous three years compared to just 7.5% of the general population of the same age range.
Why Hearing Loss Increases Your Chance of Falling
There are four main hypotheses as to why hearing loss increases your chance of falling.
The first is that hearing loss causes your brain to allocate more energy toward hearing, taking it away from other senses like balance. According to Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, “Gait and balance are things most people take for granted, but they are actually very cognitively demanding.”
The second hypothesis is that aging negatively affects both hearing and balance. The inner ear houses both your auditory and vestibular system, and the cause of damage to one could potentially be damaging to both. However, it’s worth noting that this isn’t always the case, and that some people with balance problems have excellent hearing and vice versa.
Third, it may be the case that sounds help orient us in our environment and keep us balanced. Just like your yoga instructor at Charleston Power Yoga may tell you to stare in one spot to keep your balanced, sounds can act as “auditory anchors.” Hearing loss can hinder this.
Finally, hearing is linked to mood, and mood can affect our ability to focus and balance. Studies show that untreated hearing loss can increase risk of depression, and that depression is linked to more falls.
For more information about the link between hearing loss and balance problems or to schedule an appointment with a hearing expert, call the Hearing Center of Lake Charles today.