Our physical abilities to navigate the world around us greatly depend on the clarity of our hearing. Our awareness of our surroundings diminishes in proportion to the fullness of our hearing. When we lose our hearing, especially when this occurs gradually, we lose our ability to track those small, light, ambient noises that we hear every day, even if we don’t notice that we do. These sounds include the noises our pets make as they move throughout our homes, or the sound that is made when we move dishes around in our kitchen, or object in our living room. When we lose our abilities to catch these minor sounds, we may be at higher risk for experiencing accidents and falls. In part, untreated hearing loss affects our ability to intuitively understand where we are in our homes, which could make us unbalanced and prone to run into objects, to miss stair steps, or to simply trip and fall.
What’s the Connection?
The links between untreated hearing loss and falling down and/or having other accidents is especially high for older people. Leading researchers at institutions such as Johns Hopkins have also investigated the relationships between hearing loss and the increased risk of cognitive issues such as dementia that can affect people of advanced ages. Understanding the connections between hearing loss, falls, accidents, and cognitive disorders is extremely important for the longer-term goal of addressing and remedying untreated hearing loss.
Knowing the risks of falls and accidents is also important to those who are currently working to secure healthier hearing habits. Whether you are newly exploring your hearing loss or working to adjust whatever hearing assistance devices you use, knowing the links between hearing loss and falls/accidents will help you to be evermore aware of your surroundings.
Why hearing loss is linked to the risk of falls.
Our brains are complex machines that are completing many different tasks at once. When we leave our hearing loss untreated, our brains go into overdrive to compensate. Resources that would typically be devoted to maintaining balance are often redirected toward the complex task of hearing. In other words, when we leave our hearing untreated our brains simply do not have the energy to work on hearing while also working on keeping us upright.
Our brains are in fact constantly maintaining direct, physical links between hearing and balance. The three canals in our inner ears (called semicircular canals) control the side-to-side movements and tilting movements of our bodies. These movements are sensed when the fluid and hair cells inside each of the canals send information to our brain through the acoustic nerve. The other parts of the inner ear communicate to our brain about where our head is when we are still. Inner ear problems are ultimately disruptions in how our canals are working; they are problems with how our brains understand our side-to-side and tilting movements. When this happens, our overall sense of balance is disrupted, which results, is an increased risk of falls.
Preventing falls and accidents that are the results of untreated hearing loss
One of the most important are precautions you can take to decrease the chance of a fall or accidents related to hearing loss is to exercise several times a week. Simply going for walks for twenty or thirty minutes every few days goes a long way in keeping your muscles strong. There are many exercise regimens that aim to strengthen your lower body which are really important to maintaining balance. The balance training activities such as Tai Chi and yoga can be done at a variety of intensities that will suit people of any age.
There are other ways to improve your body’s other senses. Be sure to schedule an eye exam and to pursue necessary vision care, be it glasses or contacts, to ensure that you have the strongest vision possible. Ask your doctor whether the medications you are taking induce dizziness or other symptoms that may increase your risk of falling.
Visit Us at HearCare Rhode Island
Hearing loss can be greatly improved by incorporating hearing aids into your life. Hearing aids cannot repair lost hearing. They can, however, go a long way in helping you to capture sounds you would otherwise not hear—giving you a much more complex hearing environment, which is important for developing your spatial awareness. To schedule an appointment for a hearing test, contact us at HearCare Rhode Island today.