Our ears do so much more than hear, and one of the most important functions of our ears involves helping us maintain balance. For years, many thought that the fluid inside our ears was the primary factor in determining balance. After numerous patients with hearing impairments displayed balance problems despite having normal inner ear fluid, many began to wonder—does hearing impairment itself cause a fall risk?
How Your Hearing Loss Stacks the Cards Against You When it Comes to Balance and Falls
When pilots first learn to fly into clouds and poor visibility, the first thing they are taught is that they cannot trust what their ears are telling them. Spatial awareness becomes greatly distorted when vision is compromised, and therefore they are taught to rely exclusively on what their aircraft’s instrument systems are telling them.
A very similar phenomenon happens when hearing is compromised. Our ears hear a single sound at different times—albeit mere milliseconds apart—which gives us environmental cues on where the sound comes from. When our hearing deteriorates, our spatial awareness is lowered, leaving us susceptible to falls as we grow disoriented and out of touch with environmental cues.
Another reason that people who are hard of hearing are at an increased risk of falls is that they are just plain exhausted. When hearing loss begins, individuals must concentrate at higher levels to remain involved in conversations and in touch with the world around them. This increased cognitive load can be very tiring, and mental energy is diverted from lower priority tasks—such as walking and standing in a balanced manner—to focusing on audio cues.
Hearing Aids Improving With Knowledge
As better research is performed to learn the true challenges of hearing loss, hearing aid technology advancements continue to reflect that progress. If you or a loved one have been suffering from balance and concentration problems, hearing problems may be to blame—but with new technology, these problems can be solved. Schedule an appointment with us today to learn how we can help you get back to hearing the world around you with ease!