Hearing management

Updated 30 January 2015

Hearing loss ups risk of falling

Hearing loss is associated with an increased risk of falling, according to a new study.


Hearing loss is associated with an increased risk of falling, according to a new study.

Johns Hopkins researchers analysed data from more than who took part in the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2001 to 2004. The participants had their hearing tested and answered questions about whether they had a fall in the past year.

The study found that people with a 25-decibel hearing loss (classified as mild) were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling than those with no hearing loss. Every additional 10 decibels of hearing loss meant an increased 1.4-fold risk of falling.

The findings held after the researchers accounted for other factors linked with falling, such as age, sex, race, heart disease and balance.

Hearing and balance linked

People with impaired hearing don't have good awareness of their overall environment, which makes them more likely to trip and fall, said study author Dr Frank Lin, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the university's Bloomberg School of Public Health.

It might also be that with hearing loss, the brain becomes overwhelmed by the demands on its limited resources, Lin suggested.

"Gait and balance are things most people take for granted, but they are actually very cognitively demanding," Lin, an otologist and epidemiologist, said. "If hearing loss imposes a cognitive load, there may be fewer cognitive resources to help with maintaining balance and gait."

The study appeared in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Read more:
Do hearing aids make a difference?
Anatomy of hearing

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers guidelines for preventing falls.

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Hearing Expert

Francis Slabber is a Speech & Language Therapist and Audiologist who has owned and run The Hearing Clinic in Wynberg, Cape Town for the last 17 years. Francis and her team have extensive experience in fitting and supplying hearing aids as well as assistive living devices. Francis has served as the Western Cape Chairperson for the South African Association of Audiologists for three years and has given many talks on the topic of hearing loss and amplification. The Hearing Clinic has a special interest in adult and geriatric hearing impairment, hearing aid fittings and hearing rehabilitation.

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