The effects of hearing loss on daily living are often more widespread and pervasive than most people realize. Aside from a reduced ability to effectively communicate, there are many other ways people with hearing loss can be impacted. Untreated hearing loss can cause profound damage to the auditory system as the brain becomes unable to interpret sounds that are no longer being detected. Physical health is also a concern as research shows a direct association between impaired hearing and an increased risk of falls and injury.
How can balance be affected by hearing loss?
Balance is generally maintained based on intake from our vision which is passed along through nerves to a sensory system called the vestibular system, responsible for interpreting that information. The vestibular system is mainly located in the inner ear and is essential for coordinated movement, equilibrium, and balance.
When complications arise in the inner ear, the results can have an impact on balance as well as hearing loss. These effects can occur independently, or can also happen in combination depending on the nature of the damage to the inner ear.
How is the risk of injury increased with hearing loss?
There are many different ways that impaired hearing can present hazards for the affected individual. Balance is one aspect that can be affected due to problems with the inner ear which can result in dizziness, vertigo, and a greater risk of falling.
Higher Risk of Injury for Seniors
People over the age of 65 are more susceptible to experiencing hearing loss as well as injuries from falls, compounding the danger of the situation. Many older adults just accept hearing loss as a natural part of aging and are likely to ignore the problem until it presents an immediate threat. The dilemma with that approach it that it often takes an injury to occur before any action is taken.
Seniors are already at a greater risk for falls because of declining muscle strength and joint flexibility. Combine that with hearing loss and the risk for injury is a cause for concern. It is estimated that seniors with hearing loss are 60% to 90% more likely to be injured in a fall depending on the severity of the hearing loss.
Senior Hearing Loss is Extremely Common
It is reported that one in three adults over the age of 65 have some degree of hearing loss. The more concerning aspect of this prevalent hearing loss is that most people wait upwards of a decade to do anything about their hearing loss. Health and safety are in jeopardy when hearing loss continues to go untreated.
Hearing Loss Results in Decreased Awareness
Another detrimental aspect of hearing loss is that it makes the individual less mindful of their immediate surroundings. Not being able to hear certain sounds or frequencies means other people in the vicinity or nearby activities may go undetected. This can pose an injury risk. When hearing loss is an issue, the brain struggles harder to interpret speech and sounds, leaving fewer resources to focus on physical coordination, balance, and overall safety.
Treating Hearing Loss for Improved Health and Safety
Getting hearing loss issues diagnosed and treated can help improve overall health and safety in a variety of ways. It helps keep the mind active and sharp, decreasing the risk of dementia. It helps improve balance and environmental awareness to reduce the risk of injury. It also helps improve communication and social interaction to enhance the quality of daily life.