Intuitively and from experience, we realize falling is a bad thing. From toddlers to elders, “be careful, don’t fall” is sound advice. At home, work and play, there are falling risks every day. While frequently being environmental factors such as slipping on a rug or tripping over an object, more should be mindful how our body’s vestibular system affects balance.
As a useful learning foundation, Safe Balance relies on normal functionality of three sensory inputs:
- Vision, to see and navigate daily environments. Our understanding of this sense is relatively clear.
- Proprioception, often called kinesthesia, is how body position and self-movement relates to sensory neurons in our joints, tendons and muscles. This “6th sense” guides momentary reactions to our place in the world.
- Vestibular System, providing a key sense of postural reflexes, eye movements and spatial orientation. Our complex inner ear structures and neural pathways perceive head movements and facilitate equilibrium.
As we age, our risk of falls rises. Data shows approximately 67% of emergency room visits for adults 65-85+ are for falls, considered a leading cause of injury-related deaths. Research indicates those with hearing challenges have poorer postural balance, a crucial factor in standing and walking stability. This may be caused by having fewer sensory cues in daily surroundings which assist with spatial orientation and hazard avoidance. Further, shared pathways between hearing and balance-related structures can challenge older adults to focus reduced attention capacity in safely finding their way.
By way of analogy, should those who are extremely nearsighted drive without necessary vision correction?
Please be aware that reputable research indicates:
- “However, the strongest single risk factor for fracture is falling and not osteoporosis.1
- The magnitude of the association of hearing loss with falls is clinically significant, with a 25-dB hearing loss (equivalent from going from normal to mild hearing loss) being associated with a nearly 3-fold increased odds of reporting a fall over the preceding year. 2
- “In summary, it is time to shift the focus in fracture prevention from osteoporosis to falls. Falling is an under-recognized risk factor for fracture, it is preventable and prevention provides additional health benefits beyond avoiding fractures.” 1
It is sensible for you and your loved ones to consistently get professional hearing tests. While many things in life surprise us, we know hearing your best may help reduce the risk of falls. To help keep life in balance, please schedule an appointment at your soonest convenience.
1 Jarvinen TL, Sievanen H, Khan KM, et al. Shifting the focus in fracture prevention from osteoporosis to falls. BMJ 2008;336(7636):124-6.
2 Lin FR, Ferrucci L. Hearing loss and falls among older adults in the United States. Arch Intern Med 2012;172(4): 369-71.