Have you noticed you’ve been a bit more accident prone than normal lately? It might not just be a random onset of clumsiness. Experiencing more accidents may actually indicate an issue with your hearing. In fact, a new study found a direct and convincing correlation between self-reported hearing loss and risk of injury producing accidents. The study was published in the JAMA Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery and was based off a 232.2 million participant survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Findings and Specifics of the Study

The study was published last month and used eight years of data, from 2007 to 2015. The researchers intended to study the effect of hearing loss on accidental injury during work, leisure and while driving. Participants were asked to report their hearing as “excellent”, “good”, “a little trouble”, “moderate trouble”, “a lot of trouble”, and “deaf”. Participants were also asked to report accidental injuries they had experienced in the 3 months preceding the survey date. The survey indicated that in all three categories: work, leisure or sport and driving, degree of hearing loss affected the rate of accidents. Compared to participants who reported their hearing as “excellent”, those who reported their hearing as having “a little trouble” were 60% more likely to have experienced an accidental injury, those with moderate hearing were 70% more likely and those with a lot of hearing issues were a whopping 90% more likely to have experienced an accident that resulted in injury.

Dr. Neil Bhattacharyya, the lead author of the study recognizes that while the survey does rely solely on self-reported hearing loss rather than an objective measure like a formal hearing assessment, the results are still very striking and conclusive. He says of the results, “Not hearing warning signs when jogging, cycling — that can put you in harm’s way. Hearing loss is not just a social nuisance. It can predispose you to injury.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/27/well/live/hearing-loss-may-make-you-accident-prone.html).

To access the summary of this study and it’s findings, visit the publication here: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaotolaryngology/article-abstract/2676015?redirect=true.

Why Does This Matter?

Accidental injuries are one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the United States. If hearing loss plays in the role of increased risk of sustaining these injuries, then treating hearing loss may help to reduce them. This is not the only study that has linked hearing loss to an increased risk of falls, injuries or safety concerns.

In 2017, John Hopkins University published a study entitled, “Hearing Loss and Falls Among Older Adults in the United States”. In this particular study, objective auditory assessments were used to determine a participant’s hearing abilities. These findings were then coupled with vestibular function. Vestibular function measure’s a person’s balance and ability to orientate oneself in spatial environments. This study had astounding results. The researchers discovered that even just a mild degree of hearing loss tripled a participant’s risk of falling. As hearing loss degrees worsened, the participant’s risks went up 140% for every 10 decibels of hearing loss (https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/52548-New-research-links-hearing-loss-to-an-increased-risk-of-falls).

Can Hearing Aids Help?

The exact reason hearing impairments are linked to more falls is unknown, but scientists and doctors believe a few factors play a role. Firstly, those with a hearing impairment have a decreased awareness of the environment around them because they cannot hear subtle sounds. Another contributing factor is decreased spatial awareness (or awareness of where one’s body is in space as related to other objects and people). The third known factor is the cognitive overload that happens with hearing loss. If your brain is constantly straining to hear and understand, there can be a lack of cognitive energy for other things such as balance (https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/52548-New-research-links-hearing-loss-to-an-increased-risk-of-falls).

Hearing aids can definitely help reduce the risk of all of these factors.  With hearing aids comes an increased environmental awareness. With hearing aids, the softer and more subtle warning sounds are more likely to be heard and falls more likely to be avoided. It has also been proven that hearing aids decrease the mental strain put on your brain. When your brain is not pouring its cognitive energy into trying to hear and understand, it can also take care of other factors such as awareness of safety issues as well as increased balance.

If you have noticed an increase in slips or falls or any of the other early signs of hearing loss, reach out to our friendly team at Arizona Balance and Hearing Aids today. We look forward to working with you as your rediscover the magic of hearing.