When you’re a youngster, falling is just a part of life. Taking a tumble on your bicycle? That’s normal. Tripping over your own feet while you’re running outside? Happens every day. It’s not really a concern because, well, kids are pretty limber. They rebound pretty easily.
The same cannot be said as you get older. Falling becomes more and more of a concern as you age. To some extent, that’s because your bones tend to break more easily (and heal slower). Older people may have a harder time standing back up after falling, so they spend more time in pain on the floor. Falling is the leading injury-related cause of death as a result.
That’s why tools and devices that can minimize falls are always being sought after by healthcare professionals. New research appears to suggest that we might have found one such device: hearing aids.
Can hearing loss lead to falls?
In order to understand why hearing aids can help prevent falls, it helps to ask a related question: is it feasible that hearing loss can increase your risk of having a fall? In some instances, it seems that the answer is a strong yes.
So the question is, why would the danger of falling be raised by hearing loss?
That association isn’t exactly intuitive. Hearing loss doesn’t really, after all, affect your ability to see or move. But it turns out there are some symptoms of hearing loss that do have this kind of direct effect on your ability to get around, and these symptoms can lead to an increased danger of falling. Some of those symptoms include:
- Your situational awareness is impaired: You may not be capable of hearing the sound of your neighbor’s footsteps, the dog barking next door, or an approaching vehicle when you have neglected hearing loss. Your situational awareness may be significantly affected, in other words. Can you become clumsy in this way because of hearing loss? Well, kind of, loss of situational awareness can make daily activities a little more dangerous. And that means you may be a little bit more likely to unintentionally bump into something, and take a tumble.
- Depression: Social solitude and possibly even mental decline can be the consequence of untreated hearing loss. When you’re socially isolated, you might be more likely to stay at home, where tripping hazards are everywhere, and be less likely to have help close at hand.
- Loss of balance: How does hearing loss impact your balance? Well, your inner ear is incredibly important to your total equilibrium. So when hearing loss affects your inner ear, you may find yourself a bit more likely to get dizzy, experience vertigo, or have difficulty maintaining your balance. Essentially, you have a tendency to fall more often.
- You can’t hear high-frequency sounds: You know how when you go into a concert hall, you immediately detect that you’re in a huge venue, even if you close your eyes? Or when you jump into a car and you instantly know you’re in a small space? Your ears are actually utilizing something like “echolocation” and high-frequency sound to assist your spatial awareness. You will lose the ability to rapidly make those judgment calls when hearing loss causes you to lose those high-pitched tones. This can cause disorientation and loss of situational awareness.
- Exhaustion: Your brain is working overtime and you’re always straining when you have neglected hearing loss. Your brain will be constantly exhausted as a consequence. An exhausted brain is less likely to see that obstacle in your path, and, as a consequence, you might end up tripping and falling over something that an attentive brain would have detected.
Part of the link between hearing loss and falling is also in your age. As you grow older, you’re more likely to develop permanent and advancing hearing loss. That will increase the likelihood of falling. And when you’re older, falling can have much more serious repercussions.
How can the risk of falling be decreased by wearing hearing aids?
It seems logical that hearing aids would be part of the solution when hearing loss is the issue. And new research has confirmed that. One recent study found that using hearing aids could cut your chance of a fall in half.
In the past, these figures (and the relationship between hearing aids and remaining upright) were a bit less clear. That’s partly because individuals often fail to wear their hearing aids. So it was inconclusive how often hearing aid users were falling. This was because people weren’t using their hearing aids, not because their hearing aids were broken.
But this new research took a different (and maybe more accurate) strategy. Individuals who wore their hearing aids frequently were put in a different group than people who wore them intermittently.
So why does using your hearing aids help you avoid falls? They keep you less exhausted, more focused, and generally more vigilant. The increased situational awareness also helped. Additionally, many hearing aids come with safety features created to trigger in the case of a fall. Help will arrive quicker this way.
But the trick here is to make sure you’re wearing your hearing aids frequently and consistently.
Prevent falls with new hearing aids
You will be able to stay close to your family members if you wear hearing aids, not to mention catch up with friends.
They can also help prevent a fall!
If you want to know more about how hearing aids could help you, make an appointment with us right away.