Hearing loss may be a risk factor for another public health concern, falls. Untreated hearing loss increases the chance of falls by 50%. A research study by Johns Hopkins and the National Institutes of Health found that individuals with a 25 dB (classifies as a mild hearing loss) were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling, and every additional 10 dB of hearing loss increased the chances of falling by 1.4 fold.
Why? There are two theories: 1) People use sound as auditory reference points or landmarks to help maintain balance of environmental/spatial orientation. When that is compromised, one’s sense of balance can suffer 2) Hearing loss imposes on cognitive load. One normally takes gait and balance for granted, but it takes a lot of concentration to complete these tasks. When an individual has a hearing loss, the brain becomes reassigned to other functions (i.e. having to concentrate harder in order to fully understand what another person is saying) so there may be fewer cognitive resources to help with maintaining balance/gait (i.e. walking and talking).
- People 65 or older commonly fall.
- According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Dizziness is the number one complaint of persons age 70 and older and number three for all age groups, only preceded by backache and headache.
- Fall-risk and loss of independence is recognized as the number one concern of older adults, the fastest growing segment of the population.
- 90 Million Americans each year seek medical help for dizziness, vertigo, or falls.
- According to the American Institute of Balance, approximately 80 patients per month with complaints of dizziness, vertigo, or history of falls are seen by physicians.