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Study Shows Mild Hearing Loss Triples Risk of Having a Fall

The risk of falling rises threefold even with the mildest hearing loss, according to a study. For moderate deafness, the chance of an accident doubles again – probably because such people have a poorer sense of their surroundings and are more likely to trip.

The researches also suggested that the brain may not be able to focus on balance and gait when it is struggling with hearing.

The study at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, was based on the health records of more than 20,000 patients aged from 40 to 69.

Dr. Frank Lin at Johns Hopkins, and his colleague Luigi Ferrucci of the National Institution on Aging, used data from the 2001 to 2004 cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The ongoing survey has gathered health data from thousands of Americans since 1971.

During those years, 2,017 people aged 40 to 69 had their hearing tested and answered questions about whether they had fallen over the past year.

Researchers also collected personal information including age, sex and race and tested participants’ vestibular function, a measure of how well they kept their balance.

The findings show that people with a 25-decibel hearing loss – classified as mild – were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling. Every additional 10-decibels of hearing loss increased the chances of falling by 1.4 fold, says a report in the Archives of Internal Medicine journal.

A further 20-decibel hearing loss over the “mild” classification would push up the risk by threefold again.

Explanation: Dr. Lin, a hearing specialist and epidemiologist, says people can’t hear well may not have good awareness of their overall environment, making tripping more likely.

This finding still held true, even when researchers accounted for other factors linked with falling, including age, sex, race, cardiovascular disease and vestibular function.

Even excluding patients with more moderate to severe hearing loss from the analysis didn’t change the results.

He said another reason hearing loss might increase the risk of falls is cognitive load, in which the brain is overwhelmed with demands on its limited resources.

“Gait and balance are things most people take for granted, but they are actually very cognitively demanding” he said.

“If hearing loss imposes a cognitive load, there may be fewer cognitive resources to help with maintaining balance and gait,” he added.

Source: Daily Mail: http://bit.ly/xEKEea

About Adam Bernstein

Adam Bernstein is the owner of The Hearing Professionals, Milwaukee's premier hearing healthcare facility. As the owner of The Hearing Professionals, Mr. Bernstein has over 20 years of experience in the hearing healthcare industry. He began his career in 1995 at GN Danavox, one of the largest hearing aid manufacturers in the world. After leaving Danavox, Mr. Bernstein opened two hearing healthcare offices in Chicago, IL. In 2001 he moved to Milwaukee, WI and opened The Hearing Professionals. In 2008 he added a second Wisconsin office in the town of Brookfield. Today The Hearing Professionals is the largest private audiology practice in SE Wisconsin. Mr. Bernstein has written numerous articles on hearing healthcare which has appeared in newspapers throughout the country and has been interviewed by news programs regarding advances in the hearing industry. Mr. Bernstein a member of Unitron’s Customer Advisory Board and a graduate of The University of Minnesota. You can email him at adam@icanhearthat.com and you can visit The Hearing Professionals at www.icanhearthat.com.

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