When we think about the lifestyle and safety of our older friends and relatives, the possibility of them taking a fall is a common concern. Although “taking a fall” is not completely preventable, they are accidental after all, there are things we can do to understand and prevent the likelihood of their occurrence.
Why Do We Fall?
Like we said, falling is generally accidental and can happen as a result of many different things. However, many studies show that there is an extremely strong link between hearing loss and an increase in accidental falls and stumbles.
One particularly prominent study into the connection between untreated hearing loss and falls took data from the 2001-2004 cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. This survey detailed regularly collected data from thousands of American citizens, stretching back as far as 1971. Around 2,000 participants between the ages of 40 and 69 had their hearing tested and were then asked the question, “Have you fallen during the past year?” The balance of these participants was also extensively tested in order to determine if their ability to hear had any kind of effect on their balance.
The results were conclusive. The study found that anyone with a mild hearing loss (which is the classification given to a hearing loss of 25 decibels) is three times more likely to have a history of falling. For every 10 decibels of hearing lost, the probability of falling accidentally increases by a factor of 1.4. And so, we can clearly see that reduced hearing ability is firmly affiliated with falling.
The Hazards of Falling
Falling is never good. However, when you are young, your ability to spring back, heal quickly or “walk-it-off” is quite good – falling is not a particularly catastrophic incident for you. But the older you get, the slower your recovery becomes, the less resilient your body is, and there’s a higher risk of severe knock-on issues.
Falls, even seemingly trivial ones, are responsible for a large percentage of severe injuries and deaths in the over 65’s. It is not uncommon for an elderly person to sustain brain injuries, severe bruising, and bone fractures as a result of a fall. Very often, these can lead to further complications or can overload the body with conditions to fight against. Very often, a fall is the final straw for an elderly patient who already has quite a few existing problems or conditions.
Injuries from falling cost the health service billions of dollars each year. This could be significantly reduced if measures were taken by us all to lower the risk of such accidents taking place.
How to Reduce The Risk of Falling
Get Checked. As we get older, we simply need more maintenance. Many of us try to deny that this is the case, but if we would just admit that we need patching up after a while, then there would be considerably fewer falls. So, get your vision and hearing checked regularly, as well as a full medical from time to time. Also, take note of how any medication you might be taking affects you – dizziness or unbalance, for example.
Carry Support. If you have become a little clumsier, then it can’t hurt to carry around a little support with you. There are hundreds of portable, and indeed fashionable, walking canes and aids out there. Invest in one – it could save your life one day.
Set Up Home. Most falls happen in our own homes. This is no surprise, as it is where we are most relaxed, and least likely to pay attention to potential hazards. Is your home easy to get around? Is there support, should you need it, in every room? If that answer to either of these is no, then you might want to consider rearranging the house a little.
Dr. Heidi J. Sorrells obtained her doctorate degree from Salus University in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania and master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Minot State University in Minot, North Dakota. She is a certified Audiologist by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and she holds a Louisiana and a Texas Audiology License. Dr. Sorrells enjoys all aspects of working in a private practice audiology clinic but especially loves the challenges of vestibular (balance) assessment and rehabilitation.