Hearing Loss Triples Risk of Falls

Recent research undertaken by Johns Hopkins University in the US found that people with hearing loss were three times more likely to fall than those with normal hearing.

Given that many people delay seeking help for hearing problems for as long as six to 10 years from the time when they first start noticing problems, this is even more reason to seek help early.

The study found that people with a 25-decibel hearing impairment (which is classified as mild) were nearly three times more likely to have synapse xt fallen than those with no hearing loss. In addition, every extra 10 decibels of hearing loss also resulted in a further 1.4-fold risk of falling.

The researchers analysed data from more than 2,000 people aged between 40 to 69 who took part in a U.S. health survey from 2001 to 2004. The participants had their hearing tested and answered questions about whether they had fallen in the past year.

The findings held even after researchers accounted for other factors associated with falling, such as age, sex, race, heart disease and balance.

The researchers surmised that people with impaired hearing did not have good awareness of their overall environment, which potentially made them more likely to trip and fall.

They also thought that hearing loss could potentially “overwhelm the brain”, which was busy trying to process other functions at the same time. While most people took gait and balance for granted, these tasks were quite cognitively demanding.

They concluded that if hearing loss imposed a cognitive load on the brain, this could potentially leave fewer cognitive resources to help with balance and gait, placing an individual at greater risk of falls.

In Australia, falls are the single biggest reason for admission to hospital or visits to an emergency department in people over the age of 65. Every year, about 30 per cent of Australians over the age of 65 years fall, with 10 per cent of these falls leading to injury. Along with cognitive impairment and incontinence, falls are one of the major factors causing admission to a residential aged care facility.

In addition to the risk of falls, untreated hearing loss can also result in communication difficulties that can have significant personal, social and economic consequences.

Don’t delay seeking help for hearing loss, as early intervention can reduce the impact of hearing impairment on your physical health, relationships and quality of life.

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