Hearing loss can have a significant impact on a person’s emotional well-being. It’s also vital to understand how much our physical ability to navigate the world around us relies on our hearing abilities. There is a direct connection between untreated hearing loss and the likelihood of falling down or other injuries, which is exceptionally high for the elderly.

Hearing loss is related to a higher risk of falling for many reasons. When someone’s hearing becomes affected, their perception of their surroundings suffers. Every day, we are exposed to a variety of ambient sounds, but we aren’t really aware of them. This can include our pets’ movements around the house and the noises that things create as they are moved.

These sounds form our understanding of our place in a room. When a person’s hearing is compromised, they cannot detect these sounds, resulting in a loss of overall spatial awareness. There are more chances to crash into things, skip stairs or simply become unbalanced if you don’t have a strong spatial sense, all of which can lead to falls.

How are hearing loss and balance connected?

If you’ve ever experienced an ear infection or blocked ears due to wax build-up, you may have noticed feelings of nausea and dizziness too. This is because your hearing is connected to your balance, and when you experience hearing loss, your balance is greatly affected too.

Hearing and balance are inextricably linked, and when someone has hearing loss, your balance will suffer. According to several studies, people with hearing loss exert more energy simply trying to hear and process sounds and voices. People’s brains do not have the time to devote to maintaining balance as this energy is focused on the demanding task of hearing.

The three semicircular canals in our inner ears regulate side-to-side and tilting motions detected by the fluid and hair cells within each canal, transmitting information to our brain through the acoustic nerve. When we are still, other parts of the inner ear interact with our brain about where our head is. As a consequence, inner ear issues, such as disruptions in how our canals function, impair our general sense of balance, resulting in an increased risk of falling.

How can you reduce falls?

There are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of falls and injuries. The first is to keep going and strengthen your muscles. People with hearing loss, particularly those who are still in the early stages of the condition, can feel intimidated by complex environments and withdraw into themselves or prefer to stay at home. The more time you spend out in the world, the better you can understand how your hearing loss affects your ability to communicate with your surroundings.

Now is a good time to start doing exercises that will strengthen your lower body, particularly your legs. Long walks and running can help build your leg muscles and provide an overall workout that will keep your body lean and fit.

You should also remember that wearing your hearing aids at home is essential too. Many people choose not to wear their hearing aids at home, and prefer just to wear them when they go out. The home is full of obstacles like stairs and furniture, and wearing your hearing aids will help reduce the chance of an accident at home.

While not all falls can be prevented, taking action to prevent them can help a lot. Exercise should be done on a regular basis, especially exercises that improve balance and coordination. Check with your doctor about your medications because some can make you tired or dizzy. Have your vision checked at least once a year, as poor vision will increase your risk, and have your hearing tested at least once a year by an audiologist, and use hearing aids if necessary.

There are also things you can do throughout your own home to reduce the risk of falling. Investing in shower and toilet railings, switching to brighter light bulbs in the house, and using high contrast colors to distinguish areas that need different kinds of dangers, can benefit individuals at risk for falling.

Hearing loss can be difficult to deal with, especially if you’re struggling with your balance. Have your hearing aids checked if you have them and if not, book an appointment with an audiologist as soon as possible. If you’re experiencing vertigo or dizziness of any sort accompanied by hearing loss, speak to our team at Imagine Hearing Solutions on (530) 392-4533 to book an appointment with an audiologist today.