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Older adults with hearing loss in both ears are half as likely to fall if they use hearing aids compared to their peers who do not use the devices, according to a new survey analysis. Regular use reduces this risk even further, the researchers said.

Investigators from the University of Colorado-Anschutz Medical Campus conducted a survey using the Fall Risk Questionnaire (FRQ). Participants included people aged 60 years and older with bilateral hearing loss. They were asked about their hearing loss history, hearing aid use and other common fall risk factors. 

The researchers compared prevalence of falls and fall risk between hearing aids users and non-users. Additionally, they compared outcomes between a group of participants who used their devices at least four hours per day for more than one year to inconsistent users and/or non-users.

An analysis of the responses, from 299 surveys, found that hearing aid use reduced the odds of experiencing a fall by 50%. Prevalence and risk also remained relatively low after results were adjusted for age, sex, hearing loss severity and medication usage. 

The results suggested a dose-response relationship as well, the researchers reported. Consistent use of the devices had the strongest associations with lowered odds of fall prevalence and risk.

Older adults with hearing loss have a 2.4 times greater risk of falls than their peers with normal hearing, lead researcher Laura Campos AuD, PhD, and colleagues reported. Falls and their outcomes are also costly, at an estimated $50 billion a year, they noted.

The use of hearing aids — especially consistent use — may significantly reduce the prevalence of this health hazard for older adults with hearing loss, the authors concluded.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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