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HEARING LOSS AND THE RISK OF FALLS

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Recent studies conducted by Johns Hopkins concluded that untreated hearing loss has been linked to an increased likelihood of falls.   Even those with mild hearing impairment were shown to have a greater chance of losing their balance.  How is hearing loss and your balance connected?  Your vestibular system is within the inner ear.  It keeps track of the movements of the head and reports them to the brain.  When there is a problem with the fluid in the ears, balance can be affected as well as hearing.   There are some other reasons for the increased likelihood of falls:

1.Hearing loss may increase the risk of falls by cognitive overload.  The brain is overwhelmed with demands on its limited resources.  Cognitive overload is when a person with untreated hearing loss is mentally fatigued because of the extra effort required to concentrate and pay attention to speech.  If the hearing loss is cognitively overloaded, there may be fewer cognitive resources to help maintain gait and balance.


2.Lack of awareness of the environment can cause misperceptions in spatial reasoning.  People who can’t hear well might not have good awareness of their overall environment, making tripping and falling more likely.


3.Every year 33 million people are injured badly enough to require medical attention, and the most common cause of nonfatal injury in every group is falling down.

Treating hearing loss does benefit some of the areas thought to cause falls.  Hearing aids have shown to help with cognitive overload, increasing attention and brain function.  Today’s hearing aids also incorporate spatial and locational technologies to give users the same awareness of the environment as natural hearing.  If you’d like to learn more about hearing loss, please contact us at Orland Hearing Aid Center. 

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