Untreated Hearing Loss & The Risk of Falling

  • Falls are the second leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide
  • Three million falls are severe enough to seek medical attention 
  • Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries 
  • Adults older than 60 suffer the greatest number of fatal falls 

Everyone has the risk of falling; as no one is fall-proof, the chances of falling increase as we age. Medication side effects and weakness are just a few reasons why older adults are more susceptible to falls.  Untreated hearing loss also increases the risk of falling in both older and younger adults. A study from John Hopkins University showed that those with mild hearing loss and the likelihood of falling are three times more likely to have a history of falling. Several studies have shown that for every degree of hearing loss, the risk of falls increases by an additional 140%. With that being said, individuals with mild, moderate, and severe hearing loss are all at a higher risk of falls. The statistics have proven that the importance of addressing hearing loss is crucial when it comes to fall risk factors. 

When individuals have difficulty hearing, there are several reasons why falls are associated with hearing loss. They include: 

1. Individuals with hearing loss are less attentive to their surroundings. They could possibly miss auditory cues that alert them to potential hazards such as uneven surfaces. 

2. Maintaining spatial awareness declines in individuals with hearing loss. Being aware of one's surroundings and the corresponding location is important when there is a strong correlation between hearing and balance. 

3. When the brain is more focused on distinguishing speech and understanding; it leads to less focus on balance. Both are cognitively demanding and can not compensate for what is lost. 

Though research has not proven that those who wear hearing aids are more stable; it is possible addressing an individual's hearing loss with hearing aids can serve as a type of  'balance advocacy' like crutches. But research from the University of Michigan has found that first-time hearing aid users have reduced the risk of falling by 13%. 

In essence, hearing better makes a difference. If an individual is concerned with balance and/or hearing loss; don't ignore the correlation between hearing and the risk of falls. McCollum Hearing Center is here to help when selecting the best solution that fits your hearing needs, lifestyle, and the risk factors of falls. Considering each individual's unique circumstances will guide toward the best choices in improving hearing and reducing the risk of falls.