Wednesday, April 10, 2024
HomeHealthStudy shows losing your hearing can result in increased fall risk

Study shows losing your hearing can result in increased fall risk

Getting hard of hearing brings another health problem – you’re more likely to fall over, warn experts.

New research shows even mild hearing loss triples the risk of having a fall.

The risk is further doubled for people with moderate hearing loss, probably because people who don’t hear well have a poorer sense of their surroundings and are more likely to trip.

U.S. researchers also suggest the brain may not be able to cope with hearing loss as well as the concentration needed to maintain balance and gait.

The findings come amid growing concern about the public health and financial cost of falls to the NHS.

At least 10 million Britons have some form of hearing loss, with two-thirds over retirement age, while one in three people aged 65 and over fall each year.

Researchers at John Hopkins University School of Medicine, Boston, say hearing loss has already been linked to a higher risk of dementia, but investigated whether it is connected to falls.

Dr Frank Lin at Johns Hopkins, and his colleague Luigi Ferrucci of the National Institute on Aging, used data from the 2001 to 2004 cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.The ongoing survey has gathered health data from thousands of Americans since 1971.

During those years, 2,017 people aged 40 to 69 had their hearing tested and answered questions about whether they had fallen over the past year.
Researchers also collected personal information, including age, sex and race, and tested participants’ vestibular function, a measure of how well they kept their balance.

The findings show that people with a 25-decibel hearing loss – classified as mild – were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling.
Every additional 10-decibels of hearing loss increased the chances of falling by 1.4 fold, says a report in the Archives of Internal Medicine journal.

A further 20-decibel hearing loss over the ‘mild’ classification would push up the risk by threefold again.

This finding still held true, even when researchers accounted for other factors linked with falling, including age, sex, race, cardiovascular disease and vestibular function.

Even excluding participants with moderate to severe hearing loss from the analysis didn’t change the results.

Dr Lin, a hearing specialist and epidemiologist, says among the possible explanations for the link is that people who can’t hear well might not have good awareness of their overall environment, making tripping and falling more likely.

He said another reason hearing loss might increase the risk of falls is cognitive load, in which the brain is overwhelmed with demands on its limited resources.

‘Gait and balance are things most people take for granted, but they are actually very cognitively demanding’ he said.

‘If hearing loss imposes a cognitive load, there may be fewer cognitive resources to help with maintaining balance and gait’ he added.

A report last year found falls may be costing the NHS in England up to £4.6million a day – a total of £1.7billion a year.

Around 14,000 people die annually after a fall.

Figures from Action on Hearing Loss charity show that two million people in the UK have hearing aids but only 1.4 million use them regularly and a further four million people who don’t have aids would benefit from wearing them.

Crystal Rolfe, Head of South East region and Senior Audiologist at the charity said ‘The functions of hearing and balance are both located in the inner ear – in the cochlea and semi-circular canals.

‘There are some conditions in which people have both hearing and balance problems which can cause falls i.e. Meniere’s disease. There is still much research that is needed into the link between hearing and balance.’

Arlene Culpepper, Asst. Editor-in-Chief
Arlene Culpepper, Asst. Editor-in-Chief
Vice-President & Asst. Editor-in-Chief of The Heat Magazine, Arlene is a Louisiana native, Certified Paralegal, Publicist, Owner of MIKODreamz PR, co-owner of 504Diffusion, writer, producer, and jack of all trades, who is heavily involved in her community as well as serving as Media Advisor for New Orleans Union for Entertainment (NOUE), Member of the NOLA Music Awards from 2012-present & Member of the Press Club of New Orleans. Her work is published across the web. Her PR work has been highly recognized & awarded. She was/is publicist for the late great BTY YoungN, 0017th and more. She is also working on her first novel & aspires to turn it into a film & is currently writing the authorized biography of the legendary Pimp C of UGK. She can be reached via email at Follow her on Twitter - @CategorySeven & Instagram - @hurricanearlene.


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