Study: Hearing loss could induce falls

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Skilled nursing facility operators eager to reduce resident falls might have a new tool in their kit: testing residents' hearing.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins and the National Institute of Aging studied data from the 2001 to 2004 cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which gathers health data. During these years, 2,000 participants between the ages of 40 and 69 were asked if they'd had their hearing checked and if they had fallen.

Investigators found that people with a 25-decibel hearing loss, which is considered to be mild hearing loss, were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling. Every additional 10 decibels of hearing loss increased the chances of falling by 1.4-fold, according to the study.

Hopkins' Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., said this might be because the brains of people with poor hearing could be overwhelmed by the demand of limited resources.

“If hearing loss imposes a cognitive load, there may be fewer cognitive resources to help with maintaining balance and gait,” Lin said.

The study was published in the Feb. 27 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.