Hearing Loss and Falls
Did you know that each year 1.6 million older people in America attend hospital ER departments because of a fall. In fact, for older adults falls are the most common reason for hospital admissions due to fractures or trauma-related injuries. This is a frightening statistic, even more so if you are in the age range of those at greatest risk. You may find it surprising, but one of the positive actions you can take to protect yourself against falling is to visit a hearing healthcare professional.
How Can a Hearing Care Provider Help?
Untreated hearing loss is one of the factors linked to a greater risk of falling. This link arises from the way the brain processes information received through eyes and ears about the environment around you.
A person with regular hearing dedicates larger areas of the brain to be alert for trip hazards. This is because when the ears hear normally, the brain does not need to ‘unscramble’ the sounds around it.
However, a person suffering from hearing loss struggles to make sense of partially heard speech. To make up for the deficit the brain has to work extra hard to fill in the blanks. It’s the equivalent of the brain being constantly distracted by a giant word search puzzle. In the same way you’re more likely to crash the car if you are texting whilst driving; you are more likely to trip if your brain is otherwise occupied decoding sound.
The good news is you can decrease this fall risk factor by seeking help for your hearing loss. The first step is as simple as scheduling an appointment with a hearing care provider. The hearing healthcare practitioner will run a series of non-painful tests to determine the exact nature and extent of your hearing problems. This enables them to suggest a hearing device best suited to your needs.
Once you are acclimated to your new hearing device, the brain is relieved of its decoding duties and can go back to being more aware of what’s going on around you and potential trip hazards.
Be aware that one in three adults over 65 years of age has a fall each year. If this happens it can dent your confidence and make you hesitate to venture out shopping or participate in social activities. Of course there are other reasons for falls, especially if you experience dizziness or loss of balance.
It’s important to inform your doctor if you fall or experience light-headedness, in case there is a medical issue that needs attention. Also, take sensible precautions such as decluttering the floor and making sure there are no slippery rugs or loose carpet in the home. Some people find wearing bifocals on stairs is disorientating, so it can be wise to remove them on steps.
Falls are not inevitable if you exercise and take action on issues such as hearing loss, by scheduling an appointment with an audiologist.