Prevent Falls by Treating Hearing Loss

It’s well known that hearing loss is a communication issue, making it difficult to hear your loved ones and professional relationships. However, hearing loss’s effects are far-reaching. Hearing loss makes you less aware of your surroundings as well as affects your balance.  Let’s explore hearing loss, its effect on keeping you upright, and the importance of treatment.

How Common Are Falls?

When we are young, we often fall and can be resilient. We simply get up again. However, as we age our bones become weaker, less supportive, and more likely to break. Even if you stay in shape as you age and your muscles stay strong, you’ll likely lose bone mass. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “Every second of every day, an older adult (age 65+) suffers a fall in the U.S.—making falls the leading cause of injury and injury death in this age group. One out of four older adults will fall each year in the United States” Falls are one of the most common causes of hospitalization in older adults. The National Council on Aging reports that every 11 seconds an older American will visit an emergency room seeking treatment after a fall. One contributing factor to these falls is often hearing loss which can often affect the equilibrium of the vestibular system as well as make us less aware of our surroundings.

 

Balance and the Vestibular System

Balance is often associated with physical fitness and cognitive health, however, a significant aspect of balance in the body occurs in the inner ear. Along with hearing, the inner ear houses the vestibular system, which helps you maintain balance and be aware of your spatial relationship to the world. Within the ear is the fluid-filled cochlea which houses tiny hair-like cells which send sound to the brain. In addition, as our body moves and changes direction, the fluid within the cochlea moves as well. The tiny hair-like cells also inform the brain of the head’s position as well as help us to hear. When ear infection, bone growth, or tumor develops within the inner ear, it can cause hearing issues as well as affect the fragile vestibular system and throw off your balance. 

How Hearing Loss Affects Your Awareness

Hearing not only helps us hear the people in our life but is a sense which keeps us connected and aware of the world around us. We use two ears to hear, also known as binaural hearing. This helps us determine the direction of the sound as well as its proximity and approaching speed. Often hearing loss will become more developed in one ear over the other due to a single-sided infection, impact, or exposure to loud sound. This impact on the localization of sound can affect how we stay upright. With hearing loss, we are more likely to miss calculate the sounds approaching behind us of a biker or jogger. We may also miss the sound of a jingling collar of a dog and are more likely to accidentally trip and fall. 

Brain Strain

Aside from the loss of awareness of your surroundings hearing loss also requires extra brainpower. When your hearing starts to go, it usually manifests as the loss of some parts of words or words in sentences. This requires more concentration and strain you’re your brain when listening to fill in these gaps. Attention and fatigue when listening can take focus away from other aspects of consciousness – this includes loss of focus on your movement. When you use a lot of energy straining to hear, you don’t have as many cognitive resources available to accomplish other important tasks, such as maintaining balance. This is just one way that an increased cognitive load can increase your risk of an accident or fall.

Hearing Aids Improve Balance

While hearing loss is most often irreversible it can be treated effectively using hearing aids. Hearing aids amplify the sounds you struggle with and better inform you of the world around you. In addition, hearing aids also contribute to the reduction of your cognitive load. You won’t have to strain to hear the people and sounds around you so you can focus on balance. To find out more about how hearing aids can help you and keep you standing upright, avoiding falls and accidents schedule a hearing exam with us today.