Posted on Monday, December 03, 2012

Caregivers: Hearing Loss Contributes to Falls

Unexpected falls are common in seniors and can cause damage to back, muscles, the neck, and can even be fatal. And yet many caregivers remain unaware of the startling truth that hearing loss can contribute to these falls. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins and funded by the National Institute on Health found that untreated hearing loss led to a 3x greater likelihood of falls and that this likelihood continued to increase dramatically with greater levels of hearing loss.

2,017 people age 40 to 69 participated in the study conducted by Johns Hopkins and Funded by the National Institute of Health that showed the relationship between hearing loss and falling. The study results confirmed that even people with mild hearing loss were three times more likely to report a history of falling down.

How can something like hearing loss contribute to falls? Well, not only do hearing and balance go hand and hand, but the mind is taxed by the additional stress put on it by untreated hearing loss. Caregivers need to understand that the concentration and focus required to operate hearing functions can exhaust the mind leading to greater problems with balance.

Unexpectedly hitting the ground can cause damage to back, muscles, the neck, and can even be fatal.

The CDC reports that in 2010, "2.3 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency departments and more than 662,000 of these patients were hospitalized." So not only is this a serious health issue, but it is a serious expense--far greater than treating hearing loss.

Even study participants with mild hearing loss experienced a triple increase in dramatic falls and this increase held true despite the exclusion of severe hearing loss and other physical reasons like age, heart disease, and vestibular balance issues. In addition, for every 10 db rise in hearing loss their was a corresponding 1.4 fold rise in the reported incidents of falling.

Most hearing loss is highly treatable and yet many people with hearing loss refuse to treat it and caregivers are uncertain when to encourage family members to take care of their hearing. That's because there is a misconception that hearing health does not impact the entire body. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to cognitive difficulties like Alzheimer's and dementia, an increased risk for social and emotional problems, and now a new study shows it creates a greater likelihood that people will encounter the severe problems associated with sudden falls. The lack of awareness about the seriousness of not treating hearing loss is staggering, especially when considering the impacts on an individual's quality of life.

If you'd like to learn more, see your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

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