As people get older, maintaining balance becomes more important and more difficult. Older adults are more prone to injury when they fall, and safeguarding against accidents is key.
One study suggests that hearing aids can actually improve balance among older people with hearing loss.
The Relationship Between Hearing and Balance
People are able to stay balanced because of the sensory systems of the body. The ears, the eyes and other systems help the body understand where it is in relation to gravity. In terms of hearing, the balance system is located in the inner ear. The canals within the inner ear can detect the movements of the head, which in turn helps the body establish its position in relation to the world.
The researchers tested 14 older adults with signs of hearing loss. They equipped them with hearing aids, and then administered tests to measure the balance and posture of the subjects when the aids were on and when they were not.
The data gathered suggests that when seniors with signs of hearing loss use hearing aids, it increases their alertness. Because they are more aware of their auditory surroundings, they are better able to navigate through the world without falling or losing balance.
Why Is This Important?
Before this study, it was generally believed that postural stability was maintained solely through the balance system of the inner ear rather that through sound itself. This study, on the other hand, implies that sound itself is also a key factor. Thus hearing loss causes physical imbalance and postural instability.
What Kind of Tests Did the Researchers Perform?
The researchers had the participants engage in a number of balance exercises. Some patients were able to maintain positions for an ordinary amount of time. The patients who showed signs of poor balance, however, were able to stand in the positions for a noticeably longer amount of time when they had their hearing aids turned on.
The Conclusions of the Researchers
When the study was completed, researchers concluded that the results were important, despite the small size of the trial. They are hoping to repeat the study on a wider scale, and to learn more about the extent to which hearing loss causes lack of balance in older adults.
It is important that older adults have their hearing and balance tested regularly. If a senior is showing signs of vertigo or dizziness, or if their gait has changed, they may have a problem connected to their balance system or their hearing.
About Dr Zhanneta Shapiro
Dr Zhanneta Shapiro received her Masters of Science from Brooklyn College in 2005 and completed her Doctorate of Audiology from Florida University in May 2008. Her graduate training was in various hospitals in the tri-state area and a residency period completed at Ear Nose and Throat Associates of New York. [ Learn More ]