Study Shows That Hearing Aids May Prevent Falls by Improving Balance in Seniors

A hearing aid may be able to do more that improve your listening ability—it could save you from a potentially dangerous fall.

Falls are one of the leading causes of injury and death in older people. Loss of balance, dexterity, and physical fitness can all contribute to a senior’s risk of suffering a fall, and the resulting injury complications may prove fatal for frail constitutions. However, a recent study performed by researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that wearing hearing aids improves balance in older adults, which could potentially reduce the chances of serious falls in seniors who wear hearing devices.

The study, which was printed in the journal The Laryngoscope, studied balance in 14 people between the ages of 65 to 91. Although the sample size was small, the experiment produced promising results:

  • Improved standing balance. Participants were asked to stand with their feet together on a thick foam pad with their eyes covered, and timed to see how long they could maintain balance. On average, patients were able to balance for 17 seconds with their hearing aids off, but when their hearing aids were turned on, times increased up to 26 seconds.
  • Improved lateral balance. In another test, participants were blindfolded as they stood heel to toe, with one foot in front of the other, also with no visual cues for balance. This proved significantly harder for most subjects, as they could only remain stable for an average of 5 seconds without hearing aids. When hearing was restored, average balance time doubled to 10 seconds.
  • Subconscious benefits. The research seemed to indicate that turning hearing aids on improved a participant’s balance whether or not the participant was aware of the change. As both tests were conducted in front of a white noise machine, subjects appeared to be using the sound information from their hearing aids as auditory landmarks to maintain their balance. In addition, many seniors said that they were unaware that their performance on the tests had improved when their hearing was restored, suggesting that hearing improvement in the inner ear may improve balance without a person’s knowledge.

A Hearing Aid Can Promote Whole-Body Health

If you are worried that hearing loss is having a damaging effect on someone you love, we can help. Call our toll-free number, (888) 262-2613, to make an appointment for a hearing test at the Sound Advice Hearing Healthcare Center nearest you.