11 April 2012

Hearing impaired have a higher risk of falling

Even mild hearing loss triples the risk of difficulties maintaining gait and balance, a study shows.

A link between hearing loss and falling was found by American researchers. The study indicates that having even a minor hearing impairment can increase the risk of a fall.

“People with impaired hearing have poor awareness of their overall environment, and that makes them more likely to trip and fall,” says Dr. Frank Lin, an Otologist and epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, USA.

“It might also be that with hearing loss, the brain becomes overwhelmed by the demands on its limited resources,” says Dr. Frank Lin and suggests that many take their gait and balance as a given, in reality it is cognitive appropriation. If hearing loss imposes a cognitive load, there may be fewer cognitive resources to help maintain balance.

Results

In the study, 2,017 participants aged 40 to 69 had their hearing tested and answered questions about whether they had fallen in the past year. The data was collected over four years and found that people with a 25dB (mild) hearing loss were nearly three times more likely to have a history of tripping often. For every additional 10dBs of hearing loss, a 1.4 times higher risk of falling was seen.

The findings were published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, and they could help researchers develop new ways of preventing falls.

Sources: www.ivillage.com and www.joplinindependent.com

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