Trouble when it comes to balance and falling is a serious concern for older populations in the United States, as falls among those aged 65+ are growing at a rapid rate. This rising number is worrisome as falls can be severely harmful and potentially fatal. According to the CDC, one in every four adults aged 65+ will fall each year, while an older adult will be treated in the emergency room for a fall every 11 seconds. Falls are not only physically harmful either, as many adults will limit their activities and social engagements out of fear of falling, affecting their mental health and quality of life. Promoting walking and balance safety may be one way to reduce fall risk and keep us on the go and out of the emergency room as we age.
Though it may seem obvious, problems with balance are a frequent risk factor for falls and injuries. What is not as obvious are the causes of such balance issues. Loss of balance can be attributable to many things, such as a bacterial infection or simply exhaustion, but for older populations, balance disorders like Vertigo or dizziness are extremely common. Research indicates that 80 percent of adults aged 65 and older have experienced some sort of balance disorder, with many deeming it a major public health problem for the elderly. If you are having trouble balancing, seek out the advice of a medical professional to determine the cause. Whether it is an infection or a balance disorder, treating the underlying problem will reduce your chance of a dangerous fall.
Whether it is the amount of fluid inside your inner ear or the severity of your hearing loss, the ears have been directly linked to balance, but a 2012 study by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health had found an even more direct correlation. Headed by Dr. Frank Lin, researchers concluded that people with at least 25 dB hearing loss were three times more likely to report a fall, with each 10 dB increase in hearing loss raising the chance of falling by 1.4 times. Receiving a hearing evaluation may identify hearing loss before a fall has occurred, or you may receive treatment or a hearing device that can limit or slow the progression of hearing loss as you age.
The advancements in medical technology have been significant in recent years, ranging from hearing aids that operate like supercomputers to artificial intelligence that can detect breast cancer quicker than doctors. For various balance disorders, VR programs and devices are in development for therapy and treatment, while technologically advanced hearing aids can improve overall hearing with countless features.
Though this technology continues to improve at a rapid rate, countless studies have found that only one-fifth of people who could directly benefit from these hearing devices actually seek them out. If you believe you are suffering from symptoms of a balance disorder or hearing loss, speak to a hearing health professional to learn about your options. Entering your doctor’s office may save you from entering the emergency room.