It’s common knowledge – especially to those of us with ageing parents – that falls are a very real danger to older Australians.
Our sense of balance will inevitably weaken over time if left unchecked. Rather than serving as a natural instinct, it becomes a skill that needs to be practiced and put into regular use to stay strong.
This decline is an enormous worry to our ageing population. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, more than 83,000 people over 65 were admitted to hospital after a fall between 2009-2010, with an average stay of two weeks.
This risk can frequently prove fatal. Falls are a major cause of injury-related death, which claims more lives than traffic accidents, and almost as much as skin cancer.
Poor vision, nutritional deficiencies and certain medications can all potentially increase the risk. Yet one of the biggest contributing factors could – in many cases – be preventable.
The link between hearing and falls
An alarming 2012 study revealed that those with even mild hearing loss are three times likely to have a history of falling.
Our sense of hearing declines with age just as naturally as our sense of balance. It can happen just as gradually over the years, often without being noticed – but the consequences of ignoring it can be devastating.
Dr. Frank Lin, Assistant Professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who led the study, said that hearing loss causes not only a lack of environmental awareness, but also an overworked, more easily distracted mind.
“Gait are balance are things most people take for granted,” said Professor Lin, “but they are actually very cognitively demanding”.
“If hearing loss imposes a cognitive load, there may be fewer cognitive resources to help with maintaining balance and gait.
This study serves as a powerful wake-up call to anybody who suspects their sense of hearing may be declining. Not only could inaction increase the risk of cognitive illnesses and depression; it’s placing many Australians in real physical danger.
How to minimise risk of falls
To those eager to take proactive, preventative action – or those concerned for a loved one at risk – the following four steps could prove vital:
- Exercise regularly, with a particular focus on balance-based activities.
- Review your medicines with your doctor to ensure nothing is contributing to dizziness or tiredness.
- Get a vision check-up at least once per year.
- Get a hearing check-up at least once per year.
This last step is perhaps the most easily overlooked. It can frequently take years for those with hearing loss to get a professional check-up.
If necessary, hearing aids can go a long way in countering the risk; not only in providing that essential environmental awareness, but also in freeing up the cognitive capacity required for balance.
A quick check-up – booked here and now – can go a long way in providing both safety and peace of mind in the years to come
This post is sponsored by Connect Hearing. It was written as we feel it delivers valuable insights into a health topic important to the Starts at 60 community. For more information, please visit the Connect Hearing website or call 1300 362 231.