Did you know that even a mild hearing loss is linked to triple the risk of falls in older adults (Lin and Ferrucci, 2012)? There are three possible reasons why those with hearing loss are more likely to fall:
- Our awareness of our surroundings is not just from our eyes – it is also through our ears. When we do not hear well, we are less aware of our environment, making it easier to stumble and fall.
- Our organ of hearing and organ of balance are connected and share the same blood supply and nerves. If our organ of hearing is compromised (therefore leading to a hearing loss), then it is possible that our organ of balance may not be functioning optimally either. Therefore, those with a hearing loss are more likely to have balance issues as well.
- Those with hearing loss need to use more cognitive resources (brainpower) to read lips or to make sense of what is being said. When more brainpower is used to listen, then less brainpower is available for other processing tasks, including those involved in monitoring and correcting our posture when there are risks of falls.
That is why it is worthwhile for seniors with balance issues to have their hearing checked. Similarly, those who have hearing loss should be more careful with their balance as well.
Lin, F. R. & Ferrucci, L. (2012) Hearing loss and falls among older adults in the United States. Arch Intern Med, 172(4):369-371.