While we have all heard the myth that when one of the body’s senses is impaired, others become heightened, this is not always the case. In fact, difficulty hearing can negatively affect your sense of balance. We review this connection below.
The Connection Between Hearing and Balance
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that one in four Americans age 65 and older fall every year. This is serious, as falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among senior citizens.
Research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine determined that mild hearing loss could triple a participant’s chance of falling. The researchers suggest that these clinically significant results indicate that the more severe the hearing loss, the higher the risk of falls.
A 2019 study looked at data from 115,000 participants recently diagnosed with hearing loss. They found that 13% were injured from a fall within three years compared to only 7.5% of the general population.
Why Hearing Loss Increases Fall Risk
When you live with untreated hearing loss, your brain has to devote more resources trying to hear. In order to do this, resources have to be taken away from other areas, including the part of your brain that keeps you standing upright. If you are on a hike in the Brushy Creek Trail, your brain is focused on paying attention to your surroundings in order to keep you safe. If a disproportionate amount of energy is used trying to hear, your brain could easily miss alerting you to the rock in the middle of the hiking path.
The inner ear plays a large role in both your ability to hear and balance. Within the inner ear are the cochlea and semicircular canals, which are both lined with delicate hair cells. The hair cells within the cochlea are responsible for converting soundwaves into electrical impulses. These impulses are sent through the auditory nerve to the brain to be interpreted as sound. The semicircular canals sit at an angle and are full of fluid. As you move your body, the fluid in the canals also moves, activating the hair cells. These hair cells then send information to your brain about where your body is in space, information that is key to keeping you balanced.
Damage to both areas of the inner ear can be a result of aging.
Can Hearing Aids Help?
Most individuals living with untreated hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids. This treatment may also help your balance.
To learn more about the connection between hearing and balance or to schedule an appointment with a hearing expert, contact Tejas Hearing Aid Center today.