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Often as we age, our hearing abilities may naturally decline. This is known as presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss. While numerous studies show that untreated hearing aids can improve every aspect of your life did you know that this also includes your balance? Recent studies suggest that older people with hearing loss may find that their balance improves when they use hearing aids. The finding supports the idea that improving hearing in older people with hearing loss may help reduce their risk of falls.
A Study in Balance
In The Laryngoscope journal, researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO, describe how they found older patients with hearing loss appeared more equipped to balance when their poor hearing was enhanced with hearing aids. Researchers enrolled 14 people age 65-91 and used standard balance tests to measure the participants’ balance when their hearing aids in both ears were switched on and also when the aids were switched off. The study revealed that the participants appeared to be using the sound information coming through their hearing aids as auditory reference points or landmarks to help maintain balance.
Better Balance with Hearing Aids
The results of the tests showed that the participants were able to keep their balance for longer when their hearing aids were switched on. Those who had a hard time keeping their balance performed much better when their hearing aids were on. As tests became more challenging, the more their balance improved when the hearing aids were on.
Another test included putting the studies participants on a foam pad. For the foam pad test, the average time of balancing was 17 seconds with the hearing aids turned off and 26 with the hearing aids turned on. For the second test, the balancing time doubled from 5 to 10 seconds when the participants’ hearing aids were turned on. The findings of the study support previous research that has found a connection between hearing loss and the risk of falling.
Hearing Aids as Reference Points
Hearing and sight are two very important senses pertaining to our balance. If you’ve ever turned out a light and tried to move in the dark, you know that losing your sight can severely impact your ability to maintain balance. Without the ability to see, you’re forced to abruptly adjust your other senses to stay upright.
Evidence has shown that a similar concept applies to your hearing. People with burst eardrums suffer from immediate loss of balance, and those with hearing loss can experience poorer balance than those with a full range of hearing. This makes it much harder to maintain balance while walking, running, and doing physical activity. If hearing aids were able to improve their sense of balance while standing still, then evidence implies it will improve their balance while moving as well. This lowers the risk of falls that could seriously injure them.
Because hearing aids improve the quality and amount of sound reaching the eardrum, it gives the brain a better idea of one’s surroundings. People can identify auditory landmarks around them when using hearing aids, which contributes to their sense of balance. This contributes to our sense of safety and allows us to focus our primary sense on certain tasks. When we are able to hear our surroundings, we can focus our visual senses on other aspects of living.
Hearing Aids and Safety
Hearing aids can improve our sense of spatial awareness and safety. Those with hearing aids experience lower levels of anxiety and paranoia, and spend less time worrying about their surroundings. There have also been studies linking hearing loss and mental illnesses like dementia and depression, and hearing aids appear to help combat the onset of these conditions or alleviate the symptoms.
Contact HearCare Rhode Island Today for a Safer Future
If you or a loved one is suffering from hearing loss, hearing aids might help restore a sense of balance and safety. While it is a personal decision, it is one that can contribute to overall health. Don’t let another day go by without hearing aids. Contact us at HearCare Rhode Island to set up a hearing test. We can help you find the best hearing aids for your needs and help you stay balanced at work, out and about and at home.