Hearing loss and balance

29th January 2014 by The Lyric Team

I came across a really interesting article in the Mail on Sunday this weekend  about a study that which found that people with a hearing loss are far more likely to have a fall than people without a hearing loss.  The study was carried out at John Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

They found that people with a mild hearing loss of just 25dB where 3 times more likely to have a fall and this risk doubled again for those people with a moderate hearing loss of 50dB.

The study was carried out over a number of years with data going back to 1971.  There were 20,000 people included who ranged in age from 40-69 years.  When they calculated the risk of falling they ruled out any other increase risk factors such as age, cardiovascular issues and vestibular problems.

The doctors involved in the study concluded that a hearing loss reduces a persons overall awareness of their environments therefore resulting in more trips and falls.

Another theory was that because the brain is working harder on hearing, the cognitive load is higher and less “brain power” is dedicated to the complex processes of gait and balance.

A shocking 14,000 people die each year after falling and the cost to the NHS for treating people who have fallen is a staggering £4.6million a day!

This may seem an obvious association for some people, particularly those who suffer from dizziness and balance disorders such as Menieres, which is where people have balance, tinnitus and hearing problems.  Indeed the organ of balance is located in the inner ear, but the people in the study did not have any notable problems with their vestibular systems.

I am really surprised that people with only a mild loss, which in the most part can go undetected, can be three times more likely to have a fall.

Having shown this article to some of my colleagues at Phonak – particularly some of the more accident prone ones – we are going to do some hearing checks this afternoon!

I would be really interested to hear your thoughts on this one!

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