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The Center for Disease Control reports that the leading cause of injury-related death for everyone aged 65 years old and older is accidental falls. Every year nearly 700,000 U.S. seniors die from accidental falls.
Most of us probably think of cancer and heart disease when we think of the elderly and the health issues that they face. And when we think of deaths caused by injury, most of us probably think of overdoses and car accidents. But these statistics make sense when you consider the greater context.
Almost 14% of everyone in the U.S. aged 18 years old and older lives with some detectable degree of hearing loss. Fewer than three out of every 1,000 births result in congenital hearing loss, so it is indeed rare. But there are so many potential causes that lead to hearing loss that the percentage of the population that suffers from it steadily increases with age. Among people aged 65 and older, more than one-third of everyone suffers from it. And shockingly, among people aged 75 years old and older, it is more common than not. Over 50% of them have hearing loss.
And hearing loss is one of the primary causes of accidental falls. Even mild hearing loss triples the likelihood of an accidental fall. And for each additional 10 dB of hearing loss that someone faces, the likelihood of an accidental fall increases by 140%.
Of all of these surprising stats about hearing loss, probably the most surprising are those that show how resistant people are to appropriately treating their hearing loss. Many social and psychological factors explain this, but the statistics are shocking. Fewer than one out of every five people with hearing loss wear hearing aids every day. And among those that do, they delay an average of seven years before they do so.
The potential consequences of failing to treat hearing loss with the seriousness that it deserves are incredibly severe, causing unnecessary social, professional, emotional, and psychological, and even cognitive problems. These compound on each other and damage every aspect of one’s quality of life.
And hearing loss poses a great risk to one’s physical safety in the immediate, increasing the risk of accidental falls at any moment.
The Heightened Risk of Accidental Falls
One’s sense of balance depends almost completely on one’s sense of hearing. Most of us most likely take our sense of balance for granted, because really, what are you ever going to get done if you are sitting around pondering your own equilibrium all day? Standing up after being seated, walking around without feeling dizzy, that’s all thanks to the equilibrium that the delicate workings of one’s inner ear regulate.
So even in the most controlled environments, like your own home, by yourself, hearing loss significantly increases your chances of hurting yourself in a fall. And none of us live in a world of controlled environments.
Hearing loss poses a risk to one’s physical safety in three ways:
1—It warps environmental awareness. Consider the innumerable situations in which the only control any of us really have is our response to our environment. This is the case in traffic or crowds and even at home with a pet scurrying about.
2—Hearing loss also distorts your spatial awareness. This is obviously related to environmental awareness, but it’s not the same. This means that not only will you have diminished abilities to respond to people and objects moving through and around your environment, but you will be more likely to bump into stationary objects in your environment. You will be less able to accurately know how your body is positioned in relation to other objects in your environment and even the dimensions of the space itself.
3–Hearing loss creates cognitive overload, which causes disorientation. When you are forced to invest more mental energy on hearing and comprehending, that reduces your mental capacity that passively monitors your balance.
Take Action Today
Take the initiative today to respond to your hearing loss with the seriousness that it deserves. Make an appointment with one of our specialists to advise the course of treatment just right for your needs and your budget. Minimizing the impact of your hearing loss will help you maintain your balance, increase your environmental awareness, and improve your overall sense of well-being.