When most of the common public thinks of hearing loss, it pretty much stops there. Not often do we go beyond the ear. We don’t think of any other problems that could be linked, including but not limited to, dementia, depression, cardiovascular issues, and the increased risk of falling.
In order to determine if hearing loss and the risk of falling are related, Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., at John Hopkins, and a colleague, Luigi Ferrucci, M.D., Ph. D, from the National Institute on Aging, used data from 2001-2004 cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. This particular research program has gathered health data from several thousands of Americans since 1971.
During that time frame, over 2,000 participants ages 40-69 had their hearing tested and answered questions about weather they had fallen in the last year. Other demographic information was collected, such as age, sex, race, and vestibular function (a measure of how well they kept their balance). These findings are published in Archives of Internal Medicine.
Lin and Ferrucci found that those with a 25 dB hearing loss, or a mild hearing loss, were almost 3 times more likely to have a history of falls. Each additional 10 dB of hearing loss increased the chances of falling by 1.4.
Lin says that some of the possible explanations for the relation is that people who don’t hear well will not have as much awareness of their environmental surroundings, making tripping and falling more likely. Another reason the two could be linked Lin adds, is cognitive load, in which the brain is overwhelmed with the demands on its limited resources.
It is estimated that 1 in 3 U.S. adults 65 or older falls each year, and these accidents cause over 90% of 300,000 annual hip fractures. (Tromp, A.M., et al: Fall-risk screening test: A prospective study on predictors for falls in community-dwelling elderly. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 2001. Hayes, C.C. et al: Impact near the hip dominates fracture risk in elderly nursing home residents who fall. Calcified Tissue International 1993.)
If you think you might have difficulties with your hearing, please call or text us at 740-552-1519 to schedule your free hearing test in our Coshocton or Zanesville location. Our hearing tests our always free and we look forward to helping you with your hearing.