Have you experienced a fall that landed you in The Hospitals of Providence recently? It turns out that treating your hearing loss may be the key to preventing a future injurious fall. We review how the hearing and balance systems are connected, why hearing loss can lead to a fall and what the studies show about the benefits of hearing aids below.
The Relationship Between the Hearing & Balance Systems
The hearing system and balance system are both housed within the inner ear.
The cochlea is responsible for helping you hear. It is lined with tiny hair cells called stereocilia, which convert incoming soundwaves into electrical energy that the brain interprets as sound.
The labyrinth is responsible for helping you balance. It is a maze of bone and tissue that holds the semicircular canals, which are filled with fluid that moves in response to your body’s movements, telling your brain how you’re oriented in space.
Both the cochlea and the labyrinth send signals to the brain via the vestibulocochlear nerve.
Why Hearing Loss Is Linked to Falls
There are a number of reasons researchers hypothesize why people with hearing loss are three times more likely to experience an injurious fall compared to someone without.
- One reason is that the hearing and balance systems are so closely linked; if there’s a problem with one system, there’s likely (but not always) a problem with the other as well.
- Another reason is that hearing loss makes you overall less aware of your surroundings and more likely to miss warning sounds, like someone shouting “watch out!”
- Finally, research shows that we use sound information to help us balance, much like we use visual cues to see where we’re going.
What the Research Shows About the Benefits of Hearing Aids
One study published in Science Daily in 2018 explains, “[The researchers] found that older adults who had a hearing aid were less likely to have gone to the hospital or emergency room in the last year. The difference was about two percentage points – not a major difference but large enough to be significant… In addition, those who had been hospitalized and had a hearing aid had shorter stays than those who didn’t have a hearing aid – averaging a half of a day less in the hospital.”
Another study published in Inquiry in 2019, found, “The use of hearing aids was associated with lower medical costs among those with severe self-reported hearing loss.”
For more information about hearing aids, hearing aid styles or to schedule an appointment with a hearing and balance expert, call Tinnitus & Hearing Experts today.