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Mild hearing loss leads to raised risk of falls in older age

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13th Mar 2012
Rada Rouse   all articles by this author

MIDDLE-AGED to elderly people with mild hearing loss have an increased risk of falls, a study suggests.

Data from the population- representative US National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey showed mild hearing loss (greater than 25dB) was associated with a three-fold increased risk of falls.

More than 2000 participants aged 40 to 69 years underwent pure tone audiometry tests with 14.3% having mild hearing loss and 4.9% reporting falls in the previous 12 months.

“[Our] results demonstrated a robust association between hearing loss and falls after adjustment for multiple confounders,” the researchers said.

They found that for every 10dB increase in hearing loss there was a 1.4-fold increased odds of having a recent fall.

Several mechanisms could explain the association including diminished access to auditory cues needed for awareness of the immediate environment and concomitant dysfunction of the cochlear and vestibular sense organs, the researchers said.

They suggested also that the association between falls and hearing loss may be mediated through reduced cognitive load and attentional resources.

The findings fitted with other recent reports, suggesting hearing loss may be a modifiable risk factor for falls.

Arch Intern Med 172:369-370

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