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When we think of the adverse effects of hearing loss, our minds usually ignore the difficulty of keeping up with conversations in social situations. And it’s true that not feeling confident in social situations can lead to anxiety, depression and other issues. But did you know that it could also make you more accident-prone?
That’s the claim made by Dr Neil Bhattacharyya, an otolaryngologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He recently ran a study to determine whether there was a causality between hearing loss and increased accidents. His team looked at survey data from the U.S. National Health Interview Survey and found that 6.6 million had suffered an accidental injury. Remarkably, one in six in an accident rated their hearing as ‘less than excellent or good’.
The study reveals an increased rate of accidental injuries associated with self-reported, poorer-hearing adults, with leisure-related injuries most notable among those respondents. Those with “good” or “a little trouble” hearing were at a higher risk of work-related injuries. Those with a bit of trouble in their hearing had a 60% increased chance of accidents, and for those with ‘moderate trouble’ hearing, it rose further to 70%. Remarkably the danger of damage heightened the more severe the hearing loss. If a little less so with driving accidents.
The researchers were bullish in their interpretation of these results. ‘Our data suggests a strong relationship between poorer hearing and accidental injury,’ according to Bhattacharyya. They also saw interest in the prevalence of leisure-related injuries among the hard of hearing, theorizing that people might not feel as though they are in such dangerous situations (say, compared to industrial dangers at work) and might pay less attention to their surroundings.
Although the study relied on self-reported data, some view it as unreliable; those in the audiology industry know that people with mild hearing loss tend to underestimate the severity of their hearing loss and take an average of 10 years to seek medical assistance. Their hearing loss may be even more severe than they imagine.
The researchers conclude that a portion of these accidents is preventable. Those concerned should get their hearing tested and, if necessary, start using a hearing aid.
There are many studies which show that wearing hearing aids keeps you safer. A recent survey by Eurotrak found that half the respondents said they felt safer and more independent while wearing their hearing aids. When hearing is improved, it can lead to more efficiently dealing with the usual risks we face daily living in a bustling city. This benefit is heightened with two hearing aids as you can notice where the sound is coming from, which makes it easier to avoid danger.
Hearing aids can also correct your balance. According to the Washington University School of Medicine, perceiving sound is essential to maintaining balance. Their analysis involved testing the balance of hearing aid users, one with their hearing aids and one without. The participants exhibited improved balance while wearing their hearing aids compared to when they were without them.
Finally, The National Institute on Aging states that those with mild hearing loss were three times more likely to fall than those without hearing loss. And with each 10 db increase, the risk of falling increases by 1.4%. Researchers saw that balance put a strain on the brain, which led to fewer resources available to balance the body. Wearing a hearing aid lightens the cognitive load on the brain. It frees it to focus on maintaining balance, reducing the fall risk.
Although the study will be of concern to some people, it is comforting to know that there are things we can do today to reduce the risk of accidents in the future. And it might make people a little more careful in their leisure activities as they are at work.
A Hearing Test Helps with Your Personal Safety
Are you concerned that you might have significant hearing loss? Have you noticed that your hearing loss is interfering with your well-being? Our team is here to help. Visit us for a consultation and hearing test today.