Hearing and Falls

Hearing loss can cause lots of day-to-day challenges. You may think about trouble hearing people around the dinner table or in a busy restaurant. Or you may worry about not hearing the phone or doorbell.

But hearing loss is more than an inconvenience. Research suggests that hearing loss may also be a risk factor for falls. Each year, one in four people over age 65 falls  — and some falls lead to serious injury.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine   found that people with “mild” hearing loss were nearly three times more likely to have a record of falling than people without. The risk went up as hearing loss increased. These findings did not change when the researchers accounted for other falling risk factors such as age, gender and race.

It’s not fully clear why hearing loss and falls are linked, but researchers suggest three likely reasons:

  • Balance and hearing systems are both found in the ear. So, one system (hearing) may influence the other (balance).
  • A person with a hearing loss has a harder time deciding the source of the sound. That could impact balance.
  • A person with hearing loss must concentrate more to listen. That makes it harder to focus on balance and other functions.

Often, hearing loss   isn’t treated. Some people may not know they have treatment options  .  They may lack access to care. Others worry about the cost or effectiveness of hearing aids.

If you feel like you no longer hear as well as you used to, talk with your doctor. Ask questions about what you can do. Tell your family and friends. They can help make hearing easier by speaking louder and more clearly. Be aware of background noise, which makes hearing more difficult.

Here are some treatment choices you may have  :

  • Use devices like phone amplifiers or other technology
  • Learn how to use visual cues to understand what is said
  • Use hearing aids

Addressing your hearing loss may also help your balance — and keep you from falling.

Sources: Hearing Loss: A Common Problem for Older Adults  Hearing Loss and Older Adults  , National Institute on Aging; Hearing Loss Linked to Three-Fold Risk of Falling  , Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; Hearing Loss Health Care for Older Adults  , Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine; Important Facts about Falls  , Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Great news Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois Medicare Advantage members: If you have a Fall Risk Assessment, you may qualify for a $25 gift card through our Rewards and Incentives program  .   Visit the Healthy Activity Portal* to learn more.

*The Healthy Activity Portal is a website owned and operated by HealthMine, Inc., an independent company that provides digital health and personal clinical engagement tools and services for Blue Cross Medicare Advantage members.

Registration is required to participate. Visit www.BlueRewardsIL.com to register and see what Healthy Actions earn rewards. Maximum annual rewards of $100 in gift cards. One reward per Healthy Action per year. Healthy Action dates of service must be in the current plan year.  Healthy Actions that earn rewards are subject to change.

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