Hearing loss is linked to numerous medical, psychological, and social issues. For example, hearing loss often leads to increased social isolation and depression. The recent review of existing data indicates that hearing loss is also linked to a significant increase in tripping and falling, especially among adults. Falls often lead to injury and lengthy rehabilitation. Understanding the link between hearing loss and falls allows new preventative measures to take place.

Frank Lin and Luigi Ferrucci, researchers from Johns Hopkins and the National Institute of Aging respectively, reviewed data collected from 2001 to 2004 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. This data contained medical information and survey answers from over 2,000 persons. Included in this data was the status of the participant’s hearing as well as their history of recent falls.

The research uncovered that persons experiencing even mild hearing loss were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling than persons with no hearing loss. Even more significantly, as hearing loss increased, the risk of falls also increased. Explanations for this correlation include the belief that persons experiencing hearing loss fail to fully comprehend their overall environment. This limitation then leads to trips and falls. The researchers also suggest that hearing loss puts the brain in overdrive as it works to compensate for the reduced awareness. This cognitive overload adversely affects balance and gait, leading to possible accidents. The overall understanding of the link between hearing loss and falls means more attention to safety and prevention for those persons who develop hearing loss.

Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine

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