People use information from our other senses to help us find and maintain balance.
For example, when you walk outside today, your sense of sight/vision allows you to see that the sidewalk is sloping, and your brain uses that information to automatically adjust your steps and your balance.
But, how does one’s hearing affect their balance?
A small study by the Washington University School of Medicine suggests that older adults with hearing loss might have improved balance when they wear hearing aids, which can reduce the risk of falls.
The study followed 14 hearing aid wearers aged 65 to 91, and used balance tests to measure the patients’ postural balance – both with their hearing aids switched on, and with them switched off.
Researchers concluded that their patients with hearing loss achieved better balance when they used their hearing aids. The devices helped patients be more alert in their surroundings, and also translated sound information into landmarks that help the wearers maintain balance.
The study revealed that sound itself—not the balance system or the inner ear—helps maintain postural balance. During the patients’ balance tests, researchers played white noise in the background, which sounds like radio static.
For one test, participants covered their eyes and stood with their feet together on a foam pad. More challenging tests involved patients covering their eyes and standing on the floor with one foot in front of the other, heel-to-toe.
Researchers measured how long patients could stand in these positions without needing help with their balance, or moving their arms and feet. Some patients could stand on the pad for 30+ seconds—a normal measurement—regardless of whether the hearing aid was turned on or not.
But, patients with the most severe levels of hearing loss who had difficulty maintaining stability performed better with their hearing aids on. During the foam pad test, these patients could maintain stability for an average of 17 seconds with hearing aids off, and up to 26 seconds with hearing devices on. For the more challenging heel-to-toe test, these patients stood steadily for 5 seconds with their hearing aids off, and 10 seconds with their hearing aids on.
We understand that many people don’t want to wear hearing aids, for a variety of reasons. But these devices do more than improve your hearing—they decrease the risk of falls and injury by improving your balance.
Audio Help Hearing Centers in Scarsdale, Manhattan and New York City takes your hearing health seriously. Rely on us for the best diagnoses, hearing devices and treatment plans. Call 888-832-9966 to schedule your appointment today.