Many of the causes of senior citizens falling and injuring themselves are preventable.
Physicians routinely advise their older patients to exercise, have their vision checked, and monitor whether any medications may cause dizziness. In addition to these commonly known contributors to falls is untreated hearing loss, which has been linked to multiple studies to a significant increase in risk of falls. This information needs to be shared widely with patients over the age of 65, along with encouragement to seek treatment for hearing loss as part of an overall strategy to preserve health and life.
“People with a 25-decibel hearing loss (classified as mild) were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling than those with no hearing loss. Every additional 10 decibels of hearing loss meant an increased 1.4-fold risk of falling.”*
Falls from hearing loss lead to injuries and hospitalization.
Falls are responsible for numerous injuries and deaths among Americans 65 and older. Older people commonly experience brain injuries, hip and other bone fractures after a fall. Beyond the human cost, these serious conditions generate billions of dollars in healthcare expenses due to extended hospital stays, surgical interventions, and related treatments.
“One out of three adults (age 65 and older) fall each year and falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries.”**
One the most significant studies conducted to determine the connection between untreated hearing loss and falls utilized data from the 2001-2004 cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. This survey has regularly collected health data from thousands of Americans since 1971. More than 2,000 survey participants between the ages of 40 and 69 had their hearing tested and responded to the question, “Have you fallen during the past year?” Researchers also tested participants’ vestibular function in order to determine if their balance was being affected by their hearing loss.
The lead researchers reported that people with mild hearing loss (25 decibels) were nearly three times as likely to have a history of falling. Every additional 10 dB of loss hearing increased the likelihood of falling by 1.4. Even after other factors (age, sex, race, cardiovascular disease and vestibular function) were considered, the findings held true.
Hearing loss decreases awareness of surrounding environment and increases cognitive load. In turn, this raises the potential for falls.
* USNews.com. Hearing Loss Triples Risk of Falling: Study. 2012 (http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2012/02/27/hearing-loss-triples-risk-of-falling-study)
** Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Home and Recreational Safety. Falls Among Older Adults: An Overview. 2013 (http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsaftey/falls/adultsfalls.html)