Are you over the age of 65? Do you have any visual impairment? How about hearing loss?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are at a significant risk for falling.
In fact, one out of every three people over the age of 65 experience a significant fall each year.
Besides the initial embarrassment, falls can cause mild to severe injuries, such as hip injuries, bone fractures, head trauma, and even lead to death.
The big question is, does hearing loss increase your risk of falling?
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that those with even a mild hearing loss have a three times greater risk of falling than those with normal hearing.
They also found that every additional 10 dB of hearing loss increased the chances of falling by 1.4 fold. This may be because those with hearing loss are less aware of their environment and struggle more to maintain proper balance, increasing their chances of tripping and falling.
5 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Falling
Fortunately, there are some simple things that can be done to reduce the risk of falls.
1. Treat any known hearing loss or have a hearing evaluation if hearing loss is suspected.
Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine found that patients wearing hearing aids performed better on balance tests compared with when their hearing aids were switched off. This study shows that improving hearing through hearing technology (such as hearing aids or cochlear implants) may reduce the risk of falls in older adults by using the auditory information as reference points to maintain balance.
Have a hearing test once a year and wear hearing aids when recommended to reduce your risk of falls.
2. Exercise regularly, incorporating strength and flexibility training.
Strength training is important for maintaining muscle strength to support the body as you age. Yoga and Tai Chi are helpful for improving balance and flexibility and should be incorporated into the exercise routine of anyone over age 65, or those who at a risk for falling.
3. Review your medications with your physician.
Certain medications can cause drowsiness or dizziness, especially when taken on an empty stomach or with other medications. Make sure you are aware of whether any of your medications may have these side effects and modify them as recommended.
4. Have your vision checked.
The combination of visual and hearing impairment puts you at an even greater risk of falling. Have your vision checked once a year.
5. Remove obstacles in your home.
“Fall proof” your home by removing loose rugs, enhancing the lighting, installing handrails, and making items more accessible. Six out of 10 falls happen in the home where they could have been prevented.
Falls are the leading cause of nonfatal and fatal injuries for people over 65. Falling can cause a sense of fear in those who have experienced a fall in the past. This fear leads to reduced physical activity and an increased risk for future falls. It’s a vicious cycle. You can take the recommended precautions and reduce your risk today.