Alex O'Brien


Hearing aids could improve your balance

Hearing aids could improve your balance

As the birthdays fly by, it’s not uncommon for our balance to become a bit compromised. Well, let’s just say nobody is as spritely as they were as teenagers. But if you suffer from hearing loss and found your balance has been off lately, then you might want to start wearing your hearing aids.

According to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, wearing hearing aids can improve your balance.

The study published in The Laryngoscope tested the balance of people aged 65 to 91 and found that patients with hearing aids in both ears performed better on standard balance tests when their hearing aids were on than those that weren’t.

One of the tests had participants covering their eyes and standing with their feet together on a thick foam pad while a more challenging test had people with eyes closed standing on the floor with one foot in front of the other heel-to-toe. Researchers’ generated white noise in the background as participants underwent their balance tests.

Senior author Timothy E. Hullar, professor of otolaryngology at the School of Medicine, says that the improvement is not just due to hearing aids helping people be more alert.

“The participants appeared to be using the sound information coming through their hearing aids as auditory reference points or landmarks to help maintain balance. It’s a bit like using your eyes to tell where you are in space. If we turn out the lights, people sway a little bit—more than they would if they could see. This study suggests that opening your ears also gives you information about balance,” he explained.

Huller and his research team hope that by improving hearing through hearing aids or cochlear implants it could help reduce the risk of falls in older people.

 “We wanted to find out if improved hearing really has a measurable effect on balance” Hullar said. “And the metric that we use—how many seconds can you stand on a piece of foam—has a well-documented relationship to risk of falling.” 

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