Untreated hearing loss is capable of causing lots of social and emotional problems and it could also be hazardous for your all-round health. You might feel that your hearing loss is only about missing some parts of conversations. But, actually, it also makes accidental injuries a lot more likely. Studies have shown that some adults who are experiencing hearing loss might wait for as much as 10years before they get treatment. That is why it is turning progressively common, with 15% of all US citizens who are more than 18years old having some challenges hearing. Unluckily, many individuals just accept it as a component of aging.
You Are at Risk
If you are suffering from hearing loss, then you might be at greater risk of experiencing an accidental injury either at play or at work, says a recent study. The study, utilized data from the National Health Interview Survey that was conducted between 2007 and 2015 to closely analyze accidental injuries among a wide array of adults. The survey showed accidental injuries to have been reported by 2.8% of adults interviewed over three months, and the odds of having such injuries were two times as likely amongst people who had hearing problems. The study showed that an estimated 16% of people in the United States were affected by hearing loss.
Why It Matters
Accidental injuries are among the foremost causes of mortality and morbidity in the world. If hearing loss plays a key role in the increased risk of experiencing the injuries, then having it treated could help to decrease them. This isn’t the only study that has established a link between a significantly increased risk of injuries, falls, or safety concerns and hearing loss. In 2017, a study which was titled “Hearing Loss and Falls Among Older Adults in the United States” was published by the John Hopkins University. In the specific study, objective auditory assessments were utilized in determining the hearing capabilities of participants. Then, the findings were coupled with vestibular function which is a measure of an individual’s balance and his ability to orientate himself in spatial environments. The study eventually had astounding results. What the researchers discovered was that even hearing loss of a truly mild degree tripled the risk of falling in a participant. As the degree of hearing loss worsens, the risk of a participant rose by 1.40% for every 10 decibels of hearing loss.
How Hearing Loss Could Lead To Accidents
Even though you might think that accidents and hearing loss aren’t closely linked at all, the ability to hear plays a huge role in your safety. An expert at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Neil Bhattacharyya says, “Hearing is a special sense that plays a very crucial role in getting us warned of danger within our surroundings”. How many times have you missed your stove’s alarm or gotten something accidentally burnt in the kitchen just because you could not hear the timer? Do you fail to hear your doorbell, or miss the ringing of the phone? If you have challenges hearing any of these sounds, then you might not hear your smoke detector in your kitchen or even the fire alarm that is in the building.
Also, hearing loss is dangerous outside the home. If you do not hear the honking of the car when you step out intending to cross the street, or you do not hear the shout of the kid whose ball is about rolling out in front of your car, then you are surely putting yourself and even others at risk. If you do not hear the emergency siren that is just about coming round the corner or you fail to notice the ding that’s coming from the railroad crossing, your chances of being injured or having an accident are then quite high. Also, a link has been established between hearing loss and a much greater chance of falls. This is as the ears play a huge role in your balance. When you happen to be living with untreated hearing loss, then you are much more likely to feel unbalanced, thus significantly increasing your risk of being injured or falling.
Increased Risk of Accidents
Individuals who have even mild hearing loss problems are at a significantly increased risk for varying accidents. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in a nationwide study that it conducted in 2007, studied over 232million adults and over 15% of the subjects reported hearing issues. Through three months of studies, 2.8% of the subjects reported that they had gotten injured. Their injuries were related to work, sports, and leisure activities.
For the three classifications – work, sports, and leisure – the risk of injury steadily increased with the rise of hearing loss acuteness. And the adults with hearing loss were compared to those to reported not having hearing loss. Those that reported minor hearing loss were 60% more probable to be injured, those that reported moderate hearing loss were 70% more probable, and those who admitted to having ‘a lot’ of hearing loss were 90% more probable to have some accident.
“When biking, I never wear headphones as not being able to hear warning signs could put one in harm’s way” is the comment that was added by one among the authors of the study. Hearing loss isn’t only a social problem, but it could also get you predisposed to injuries. Individuals with hearing loss that admitted to having injuries in both John Hopkins and the CDCP studies said that they were most frequently experiencing injuries and falls during their leisure activities.
Missing something while driving is among the most obvious issues with hearing loss. Can you hear horns, your blinkers, police sirens, and screeching tires? If you are focused on your GPS or hearing your radio, will you also hear somebody who is yelling outside? If kids were playing outside while you are driving, will you be distracted if they suddenly begin to make noise? If you get yourself injured in a vehicle accident, you are probably going to be ticketed and face some hard problems as regards whether you will be allowed to retain your license or not.
If you happen to be outside either enjoying a fun leisurely activity or working, will you hear somebody who is calling out to you? Will you hear when that person is telling you to duck because a Frisbee or ball is headed your way? Will you hear and step aside if a cyclist is coming up behind you on some walking path? Will you hear a bee you might even be allergic to when it’s buzzing around your head? You certainly will if you had hearing aids on.
An issue of injury and hearing loss that is not so obvious is falling. According to varying studies, even a mild hearing loss could bring about falling and balance issues as you aren’t completely cognitive of your immediate surroundings. Here is the problem – a direct correlation has been verified to exist between falling and an individual who compensates for hearing loss as a result of sensory overload. The auditory nerve has to work overtime before it can process sound for the brain, and the brain has to keep putting in extra effort to process and interpret the sounds. This means that you will be using more of your brain in trying to hear and that leaves significantly less brainpower available for use in being aware of your surroundings and maintaining your balance.
A study that studied individuals who were between the ages of 49 and 69 who all admitted that they were hard of hearing, revealed that they had much more cases of injuries as a result of falls. Unluckily, as the age rises, so does the instances of requiring hospitalization, and sometimes even prolonged hospitalization, as a result of falls.
In The Home
Issues with balance and hearing loss could also bring about a consequence of falls in the home. Other problems with hearing loss within the home could also end in injury. Are you capable of hearing the carbon monoxide alarms or smoke alarm irrespective of where you might be within the house? Are you capable of clearly hearing the phone when it starts ringing? These are some of the questions that could help in highlighting hearing loss problems within the home.
Leisure Activities and the Risk of Injury
With senior years and retirement comes more time to be used for social and leisure activities. That only makes it doubly unfortunate that accidental injury risks that involve leisure activities are much higher as regards people who have untreated hearing loss. Hearing loss could be a part of aging, but that does not mean that it should not be treated. Also, aging brings about some mobility problems, add that to accidental injury and hearing loss, and you will surely have a double whammy. You should surely be enjoying yourself during your senior years – and risk-free at that. All of the enjoyable activities could turn risky if you are suffering from untreated hearing loss. If you are out enjoying a leisurely walk, will you hear the person who is coming up behind you and expecting you to move over? Will you be capable of enjoying any walk with a friend if you cannot hear them?
Increased Danger of Falling
The dangers of falling increase as the proportion of hearing loss also increases, which then puts you at risk if you love embarking on rock climbing, hiking, or any other outdoor activities on your own. Your brain is an amazing creation, but it has only so much processing abilities at any given time. The study about compensating for hearing loss that was earlier mentioned shows that you are much more likely to lose your balance or slip if your brain happens to be compensating for hearing loss. A lot of the enjoyment that you could get from outdoor activities involves the unique and amazing sounds that are found in nature. The sound of crickets, the creek, and songbirds – all of these contribute to the amazing experience of the outdoors.
Home and Driving Problems
Driving comprises much more multi-tasking and hearing is quite crucial to avoiding accidents. Can you hear the GPS, a friend who is talking to you, the radio, and a siren that is coming from an emergency automobile such as an ambulance, which is behind you? Can you hear another driver who is honking his car’s horn either behind, beside, or in front of you? Even the answer ‘most of the time’, though it might seem okay with some people, is not good enough. Being given a traffic ticket as a result of a hearing problem could mean losing not just your license but also your independence.
If your brain happens to be compensating for hearing loss at home, then you are at risk of falls and there are even some other varying home safety concerns. Will you be able to hear the carbon monoxide or smoke detector? Will you hear your microwave’s ‘finish’ alert? Will you hear the timer of your oven in the kitchen? These are all questions you should try to answer when it comes to home and driving hearing loss risks.
How Common Are These Accidents?
You might be thinking that accidents are not quite common at all. Well, an accident is an accident after all, right? Nevertheless, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has said that in the year 2013, accidental injuries brought about a whopping 28 million visits to the emergency room. Surely, accidents are a key concern, and they lead to several deaths every single year. One of the most common causes that bring about accidents is sensory impairments. Individuals who have challenges with hearing, seeing, or smelling are at a much higher risk of experiencing accidents and injuries than people whose senses are sharp.
Can Hearing Aids Help?
The precise reasons why falls and hearing impairments are linked are, for now, not known. But doctors and scientists all believe that a couple of factors certainly play a role. First of all, people who have hearing impairment feature a significantly decreased awareness of their surrounding environment as they are unable to hear subtle sounds. One other contributing factor is their significantly decreased spatial awareness (or simply the awareness of where their body happens to be within a space relative to other people and objects). The third factor that is known is their cognitive overload which occurs whenever a hearing loss occurs. If your brain has to consistently strain before it can hear and understand, then there could be a lack of cognitive energy for other varying activities like balance.
Hearing aids can help to decrease the risk of all of the factors that have been mentioned. With hearing aids comes an environmental awareness that is greatly increased. With hearing aids, all of the more subtle and softer sounds are a lot more likely to be heard and falls become a lot more likely to be prevented. Also, it has been proven by studies that hearing aids are capable of effectively decreasing the mental strain that is put on the brain. When your brain happens not to be pouring all of its cognitive energy into your efforts at trying to hear clearly and understand, then it will be capable of also taking care of other varying factors and activities like an increased balance as well as the awareness of varying safety issues.
How Hearing Aids Can Help
All of the teams that have researched the relationship or link between hearing loss and accidental injuries believe that some aspects of the accidents are quite preventable, and anybody who has concerns as regards his hearing should have it tested and be fitted with hearing aids if that is possible.
Studies have shown that hearing aids do not only make conversations a lot easier and improve social interactions greatly, both they also help in keeping you much safer, both in and out in the world as well as at home. In a study that was carried out by Eurotrak in 2015, half of all of the respondents reported that they felt safer and a lot more independent while they were wearing their hearing aids. When an individual’s hearing is improved, it is capable of making it a lot easier to remain safe in any bustling city by having him fully alerted to sounds of traffic as well as other varying noises. Also, the aids help the person to become capable of deciphering and locating where all of such sounds are coming from. Inside the home, hearing aids surely make it a lot easier to hear oven timers, the varying residential alarms, the phone, and even any call for assistance or help that could be coming from somebody within the neighborhood.
In addition to getting you alerted to danger, hearing aids also feature the capability of helping you to balance. A study that was undertaken by the Washington University School of Medicine discovered that the ability to perceive sound is quite crucial to maintaining your balance. The University’s study involved having the balance of individuals who were users of hearing aids tested, some with their aids on while some were without their aids. The participants who had their hearing aids displayed a significantly improved balance, in comparison to those who were not wearing theirs.
The National Institute on Ageing has also discovered that individuals who had mild hearing loss were 3 times more probable to fall than those who do not have hearing loss. And, the potential risk of falling rises by as much as 1.4% with every 10-decibel rise in hearing loss. This is surely a balance problem too. The researchers all believe that the brain is significantly strained by struggling to hear, which then leaves significantly fewer resources to be used in balancing the body. Wearing hearing aids decrease the cognitive load that’s put on your brain thus enabling the brain to concentrate more on the maintenance of balance, which then significantly decreases the chances of experiencing a fall.
Tips for Avoiding Accidents If You Have Hearing Loss
In conclusion, hearing tests are easy and quick, and the fitting of hearing aids is a breeze, thus getting your hearing tested or checked is among the simplest means of protecting both you as well as your loved ones, and also preventing accidents, thus avoiding accidental injuries. You must never fall for the trap of considering your hearing loss to not be a big deal. Experts have verified via research studies that several adults all believe that hearing loss, especially as a result of aging, is ‘normal’ and thus of negligible consequence other than, maybe social challenges.
The goal of this article has been to inform you that hearing problem can be real health and safety risks. Improving your hearing does not only decrease your risk of accidental falls and injuries but it also greatly improves your relationships and the quality of your life. So, if you feel you might have hearing loss, find a hearing healthcare professional near you to examine you, and recommend the most appropriate hearing aids for you.