February 24, 2018

Hearing Loss Linked to Fall Risk

A new study led by a Johns Hopkins researcher, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, and funded by the National Institute of Health suggests that hearing loss may be a risk factor for and associated with falls. The finding has implications for developing new ways to prevent falls, especially in the older adults.

Data from 2001 to 2004 cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey was analyzed. During those years, 2,017 participants’ ages 40 to 69 had their hearing tested and answered questions about whether they had fallen over the past year. Researchers also collected demographic information and tested participants’ vestibular function.

The researchers found that people with a 25-decibel hearing loss, classified as “mild,” were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling. Every additional 10-decibels of hearing loss increased the chances of falling by 1.4 fold. When researchers accounted for other factors linked with falling, including age, sex, race, cardiovascular disease and vestibular function, the findings held true. Even excluding participants with moderate to severe hearing loss from the analysis didn’t change the results.

Among the possible explanations for the link, according to one of the researchers, is that “people who can’t hear well might not have good awareness of their overall environment, making tripping and falling more likely.” Another reason hearing loss might increase the risk of falls is “cognitive load, in which the brain is overwhelmed with demands on its limited resources. If hearing loss imposes a cognitive load, there may be fewer cognitive resources to help with maintaining balance and gait.”

(c) COLLAGE, The Art & Science of Healthy Aging Blog – Read entire story here.