Just as taxes are inevitable, so is aging. And unfortunately, many health conditions become more and more common as you age. One issue that is widespread among older adults is falling. While several underlying health conditions can contribute to a greater likelihood of falling, the most common prevalent are problems with walking and balance.
In fact, 80 percent of adults aged 65 and older report having experienced balance disorders, such as vertigo or dizziness. Among balance disorders, one of the leading causes is vestibular (inner ear) dysfunction. In the United States, 35 percent of adults aged 40 and older have experienced vestibular ear dysfunction. It is apparent that this is a widespread issue that can have far-reaching consequences.
Many particular variations of vestibular ear dysfunction can cause dizziness and balance problems. This may be due to inflammation, fluid, or other issues that cause a loss of balance control.
In recent years, the number of older adults experiencing falls has grown. Unfortunately, fall death rates in the United States increased by 30 percent between 2007 and 2016. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that one in four older adults falls every year, and one in every five falls results in a serious injury, such as a broken bone or head injury.
To protect yourself from falls, it is important to have your hearing checked regularly. At routine appointments with your hearing professional, they will be able to determine whether you are experiencing any type of vestibular ear dysfunction.
If you experience balance problems, be sure to speak to your hearing professional or another medical care provider. Thanks to advancing technology and treatment options, there are solutions available that can greatly reduce your risk of falling. If you have experienced balance problems or dizziness and your medical care provider tells you that, “You have to live with it,” or “Your test results are normal,” you do not need to accept this as a final answer. Find a medical provider or hearing professional who will provide the high level of care you deserve.
Based on your needs, your hearing professional may recommend treatment such as an assistive hearing device, therapy, medication, or surgery. Because untreated hearing loss is connected to cognitive decline and a greater risk of falls, treating your hearing loss may help prevent falls, as well as slow cognitive decline.
You can also take other simple measures to reduce the likelihood of falls in your home and elsewhere. Here are a few tips you can easily implement:
- Wear sensible shoes. High heels, floppy slippers or sandals, or shoes with slick soles can all increase your risk of falls, as can walking in stocking feet.
- Remove boxes, cords, or other trip hazards from walkways in your home. Secure any loose rugs, or remove them.
- Place a lamp near your bed that you can easily turn on if you need to get up during the night. Also, make sure that you have clear walkways to all light switches, and turn on the lights when you go up or down the stairs.
- Use assistive devices around your home, such as handrails on the stairs, non-slip tread for wooden stairs, or a plastic seat for the shower or tub.
Of course, be sure to talk to your hearing professional and physician about any balance problems, as well as any falls that occur.
If you would like to learn more about how your ear function can affect your balance, or if you would like to schedule an appointment with our hearing professional, please contact our office today.