Hearing Health Affects Balance

The vestibular system, one portion of the labyrinth of the inner ear, is a sensory system that is essential to normal movement and equilibrium; it provides you with your sense of balance and an awareness of your spatial orientation. A study by Johns Hopkins determined that even mild hearing loss triples the increased risk of falls among elderly.2

A study conducted by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that enhancing hearing improved the balance of adults with hearing loss.3 In the study, subjects who wore hearing aids performed better on balance tests when their hearing aids were turned on vs. when they were off. The study’s author attributed the results to more than just improved alertness. Professor of otolaryngology, Timothy Hullar, MD, suggested that, just as we use our sight to tell where we are in space (and sway more when it’s dark or our eyes are closed), we use sound as “auditory reference points or landmarks to help maintain balance.” When that is compromised, balance can suffer.

In the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine study linking hearing loss to a three-fold risk of falling, results suggested that treating any hearing loss with hearing aids can help reduce the risk of falls in older adults.


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