When you’re younger, tripping on the sidewalks leaves you with a scuffed knee. For those 65 years and older, falls can be especially dangerous, resulting in broken hips or head injuries. Experts now suspect that hearing loss can contribute to falls, meaning that seeking treatment for your loss may help keep you safe.
The Connection Between Balance and Hearing
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among Americans over the age of 65. Research suggests that people with hearing loss have a higher risk of falls than the general population. In fact, the more severe the hearing loss, the higher the risk of falls.
Below are just some of the ways experts think hearing loss can affect your balance.
Untreated Hearing Loss Uses Up More Brain Power
When you are living with untreated hearing loss, your brain allocates more resources to trying to hear. This leaves less brainpower available for balance. When out on a hike at Torrey Pines, your brain is on high alert trying to pay attention to your surroundings. If your brain has to devote more energy in order to hear, it can easily miss the tripping hazards on the path.
Aging Plays a Role
One of the most common causes of hearing loss is aging. Age-related hearing loss has also been linked to a decline in vestibular function, which can affect your sense of balance.
Your inner ear is made up of three important parts: the cochlea, semicircular canals and vestibule. The cochlea plays a key role in your ability to hear as it is responsible for converting soundwaves into electrical impulses. These impulses are sent through the auditory nerve to your brain to be interpreted as sound. The semicircular canals and vestibule make up your vestibular system, which helps you balance. The semicircular canals and vestibule are full of fluid; as you move, so does the fluid within these canals. This helps tell your brain where your body is in space.
As you age, the delicate hair cells that line the cochlea, semicircular canals and vestibule can become damaged. This can prevent important information about balance and sound from ever reaching the brain.
Hearing Aids Can Help
Because of the connection between untreated hearing loss and imbalance, many experts believe that hearing aids can serve a dual purpose – helping you reconnect to the hearing world while also improving your balance.
To learn more about treating your balance issues with hearing aids or to schedule an appointment with a hearing expert, contact San Diego ENT today.