Mild hearing loss can almost triple the risk of losing balance and experiencing a fall. Thus, poor hearing is a concern that should be addressed, especially in seniors.
Hearing loss and falls are related because poor hearing can make people less aware of their surroundings and can result in them bumping or tripping over people and other obstacles. Poor hearing also results in decreased spatial awareness which makes a person unable to gauge where their body is and how far they are from objects around them.
In this article, we will be discussing the association between hearing loss and falls, how these risks can be mitigated, and what precautions to take to help seniors with poor hearing live independently and remain active for years to come.
The Prevalence & Impact of Hearing Loss in Seniors
54% of Canadian adults between the ages of 40 to 79 experience age-related hearing loss. Hearing loss due to age is called presbycusis. The affected individual gradually loses their ability to hear and people do not realize that they are losing their hearing ability.
Presbycusis can be inherited and occur due to changes in the ear canal and auditory nerve. It makes it hard for the affected individual to listen to or hear loud noises and understand the voice of others.
As a consequence, seniors with presbycusis are at risk of facing social isolation and communication difficulties. It can also result in cognitive health conditions such as dementia.
The Connection Between Hearing Loss and Falls Among Seniors
With growing age, our bodies tend to see a natural decline in our ability to hear and see. This can easily impact one’s sense of balance making them more susceptible to falls.
Falls are a serious concern for seniors in Canada and one of the leading reasons for hospitalization for those over the age of 65. While we can brush off light falls when we are young, as we get older even light falls can result in serious injury which can limit a senior’s mobility and self-confidence.
Seniors that have poor hearing are even more vulnerable to falls. Why? Medical professionals believe it is due to decreased spatial awareness and increased cognitive attention to hearing rather than maintaining postural balance. Let’s look at these reasons in more detail.
Cognitive Load & Attention
Seniors experiencing severe hearing loss strain their cognitive resources to try and listen to the people around them. This increased mental effort needed for understanding and interpreting sounds can result in the brain being less focused on other essential things such as balance.
If a part of the brain is constantly straining to try and hear better it is unable to multitask which can dramatically reduce situational awareness. This reduced situational awareness and lack of procession can cause loss of balance or drowsiness. With reduced focus, even a little stumble increases the risk of falls by a large magnitude.
Environmental Awareness and Safety
Adults with hearing loss have difficulty hearing warning signals and hazards. They are also unable to hear things that are approaching them from behind or the sides, which can startle them causing them to lose balance.
With increased vulnerability to accidents and falls, seniors with poor hearing can withdraw from their social life and start becoming less active. This can limit their physical activity and make them even weaker, which in turn will make them even more susceptible to falls.
This is why it is essential to keep seniors active and ensure that they use hearing aids and other signals to constantly be aware of their surroundings.
What Prevention & Intervention Strategies Can Help Reduce The Risk Of Falls In Seniors With Poor Hearing
- To prevent and diagnose hearing loss, it is important for adults, especially seniors, to have routine hearing assessments. With these assessments, a senior unaware of their hearing loss can get the necessary medical help to reduce further progression.
- Balancing and strength exercises are also essential in maintaining muscle strength and stability. Just 15-20 minutes of daily exercise can significantly reduce the impact and risks of falls among seniors. By exercising regularly, even if a senior experiences a fall, their stronger muscles and bones will help reduce the chances of serious injury. Additionally, strength training and balancing exercises can also help control blood pressure in seniors whilst providing many other health benefits.
- Hearing aids for seniors are essential to preventing further deterioration of hearing. However, seniors must first consult with an ENT doctor before opting for a hearing aid. An ENT specialist might refer them to an audiologist depending on the severity of the hearing loss.
- Fall-proofing the home is also a great way to reduce the risk of falls. Always make sure that a senior’s home is well-lit and has no loose carpeting or raised obstructions. Also, make sure that the passageways are not too narrow or cluttered. Another neat idea is to install grab handles in the washroom and staircases to help seniors better maintain balance.
Why Investing In An Automatic Fall Detection Device Is Essential For Seniors?
It is important to remember that we can not eliminate 100% of fall risks. As such, it is essential for seniors who live independently, to invest in an automatic fall detection device.
These devices come with a smart button that can be pressed in case of an emergency to alert caregivers and medical professionals that something has gone wrong.
Additionally, these devices have a sensor that automatically detects if a fall has occurred. This way even if a senior is unable to press the button on their own, or is unconscious, the device will send out an automatic signal to notify their responders to immediately come to their assistance.
Such devices offer an extra layer of protection by being able to detect falls on their own allowing caregivers and seniors to be more confident in taking liberties and staying active. Knowing that if anything were to happen, help was never too far away.
With the above-mentioned measures, seniors can not only mitigate the risk of falls but reduce the progression of gradual hearing loss and chances of developing other cognitive conditions such as Dementia.
To help protect your loved ones from unforeseen accidents and falls it is highly recommended that seniors with hearing loss always have on them an automatic fall detection device such as the ones offered by Northwood Intouch. You can learn more about these devices by giving us a call at +1 (902) 492-3346.