12JULY2016JACKHARLEM 329

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Reduce the risk of trips and falls

GPs routinely advise their older patients to exercise, have their vision checked, and monitor whether any medications may cause dizziness. Untreated hearing loss has now been linked in multiple studies to a significant increase in risk of falls.  

 

“People with a 25-decibel hearing loss (classified as mild) were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling than those with no hearing loss. Every additional 10 decibels of hearing loss meant an increased 1.4 fold risk of falling.” (1)

Falls from hearing loss lead to injuries and hospitalisation, serious injuries and death among Australians 65 and older. Older people commonly experience brain injuries, hip and other bone fractures after a fall.  “In Australia in 2009 - 2010, the estimated number of hospitalised injury cases due to falls in people aged 65 and older was 83,800.“ (2)

Dr. Frank Lin, an otologist and epidemiologist who conducted this and several other studies on the broader implications of hearing loss, suggests the following possible reasons for the link to falls:

  • People who can’t hear well might not have good awareness of their overall environment, increasing the potential to trip and fall
  • Cognitive load increases in those with hearing loss. The brain is overwhelmed with demands on its limited resources to maintain balance and gait, while straining to hear and process auditory input
  • Cochlear disorders may include vestibular dysfunction, leading to poor balance. (3)

 

Hearing loss is vastly under-treated.  Having your hearing checked is such a simple process and could avoid you having a fall.

 

    1. Hearing Loss Triples Risk of Falling: Study. 2012. (Johns Hopkins Medicine)
    2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and Flinders University.
    3. JAMA Internal Medicine. Hearing Loss and Falls Among Older Adults in the United States.