Prevent Falls by Treating Hearing Loss

Prevent Falls by Treating Hearing Loss
Carli Van Harken

Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for senior Americans. After the fall and recovering, there is still the sense of unease which can have an impact on a seniors’ safety and independence. Falls can be economically as well as personally costly. Seniors who may injure themselves in a fall, even if it’s in the house, usually start limiting their activities.

This can lead to a sense of isolation and ultimately depression. Fear of falling can be addressed and reduced. Many older adults find out their balance improves with the use of hearing aids. About 48 million Americans suffer from hearing loss yet only one in five that could benefit get hearing aids and use them. There are hearing aid models to fit your budget, lifestyle and expectations.

That’s something we can help you with at Comprehensive Ear & Hearing. Call for a hearing evaluation today. It’s private, painless and the benefits of hearing aids just can’t be denied.

Hearing and Balance

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found older patients with hearing loss had better balance when their hearing was treated with hearing aids. The findings bolster the theory that improved hearing in older people who have hearing difficulties can reduce their risk of falls.

Researchers used a small pool of participants so they could better analyze the study data. There were 14 people between the ages of 65 and 91 in the study and a standard balance test was used to measure the participants postural balance with hearing aids on and working and without hearing aids.

Improvements were found and Timothy Hullar, senior author and professor at the Washington University School of Medicine said the improvements were not just because hearing aids helped those in the study be more alert to environmental sound.

“The participants appeared to be using the sound information coming through their hearing aids as auditory reference points or landmarks to help maintain balance,” he explained. Hullar compared the results to when we use our eyes to tell us where we are in a dark area. If the lights are out and we are in the dark, he said, we tend to sway more on our feet than we do when we can see. “This study suggests that opening your ears gives you information about balance,” he added.

Stability and Hearing

The study shows processed sound itself, rather than the balance system in the inner ear, helps us maintain balance. As the participants underwent balance tests with and without their hearing aids switched on, researchers played white noise in the background. One of the tests used had participants standing with their feet together on a thick foam pad wearing a blindfold. In another, participants had to stand on the floor with one foot in front of the other heel-to-toe, also blindfolded. The researchers tabulated how long the participants could stand in these positions without needing to move their arms or feet to help with their balance.

Results Improved with Hearing Aids

Some of the study subjects could stand and keep their balance on the foam pad for 30 seconds or more, which is considered normal, whether or not their hearing aids were turned on. But the participants who had difficulty with balance did have better results when their hearing aids were turned on. Also, researchers noted the improvement in their balance was greater with they participated in a more challenging test.

In the foam pad test, the average duration of stability was 17 seconds with the hearing aids off, but nearly 26 seconds with them on. In the more challenging heel-to-toe test, the participants with their hearing aids on could stay steady for 10 seconds and that was double the time for those who didn’t a have their hearing aids on.

In general, because hearing aids improve the quality and amount of processed sound reaching the eardrum, the brain gets a better idea of the body’s surroundings. People can identify the auditory landmarks around them and that contributes to a better sense of balance.

Comprehensive Ear & Hearing

While we are visual creatures, we can only see in one direction at one time. Using our ears, helps us hear in all directions and that gives us a better sense of where we are and better balance. At Comprehensive Ear & Hearing, we have hearing solutions to help you balance your life! Give us a call today.