Photo credit: KAYYY B
by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition
According to a recent report on NPR, wearing hearing aids may cut the risk of falls. It has been known for some time that falls are associated with hearing loss for older adults. The explanations for this statistical association might be loss of feedback from sounds, damage to hair cells in the vestibular system or perhaps because hearing loss is a general marker of frailty in older adults. Regardless of why, the importance of this association is that falls are the leading cause of death from injury among those over the age of 65.
An article in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reports that hearing aid use is associated with lower fall risk in older adults with hearing loss. Previous research on this topic yielded inconclusive results. What was different in this study was that the researchers assessed how consistently the hearing aids were worn.
The reasons for why wearing hearing aids consistently reduce falls aren’t clear — is there increased situational awareness or an improvement in balance? Further research may shed light on the “why,” but for now, the findings appear sufficiently strong that people with hearing loss should be encouraged (for many reasons) to obtain and wear hearing aids. In addition, those who already have hearing aids should be encouraged to wear them consistently.
Of course, it’s better to protect your hearing so you won’t ever need hearing aids. Avoid noise exposure, use hearing protection if you can’t avoid the noise, or leave the noisy environment and your ears should last you a lifetime.