We all know that aging brings an increase in many risks. Foremost among these is falling. Seeing that a serious fall can be a life altering event, prevention of falls is critical.
Since the ear functions for both hearing and balance, it is reasonable to suspect that those with hearing loss may have an increased risk of falling. Studies have shown that this is the case. A 2017 study by Dr. Frank Lin from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Luiggi Ferrucci from NIOA, “Hearing Loss and Falls Among Older Adults in the United States”, found that the presence of a hearing loss increased the likelihood of falls. This was evident in people with even a mild loss and more significant as the hearing loss worsened.
We use our hearing to be alert to activities, people and pets within our immediate environment and to help maintain good spatial awareness. With hearing loss, auditory cues are less salient, requiring more mental effort in order to function well. This in turn means there is less mental effort available for other tasks such as maintaining balance.
A smaller study by Dr. Timothy Heller from Washington University of St. Louis demonstrated that using hearing aids helps with balance. People with hearing loss were better able to do maintain their balance when they used hearing aids than without hearing aids.
Even though Dr. Heller’s study was small, the evidence is growing that hearing aids really do help, not just hearing, but overall brain health and well being.