The many and varied benefits of hearing aids are well known. At Los Gatos Audiology & Hearing Aid Center, Dr. Christine Throm and her team of audiology professionals have dedicated their professional lives to spreading the word about how these remarkable pieces of technology can improve the lives of both the hearing impaired and their loved ones.
Now it turns out that hearing aids may also help to improve the balance of people who wear them.
According to the results of a study published in the journal The Larynogoscope, the information contained in sound, apart from the balance system contained within the inner ear, may contribute to a person’s ability to maintain balance. Therefore, the ability to hear well is directly correlated with the ability to maintain balance. A hearing aid would thus help to reduce the risk of falls among the elderly.
Although the study was small, involving only fourteen people aged 65 to 91, it is the first to present evidence that sound information is directly responsible for balance. Each of the study participants had hearing loss and had been wearing hearing aids in both ears for at least three months. They completed two tests of their balance, each with and without their hearing aids. All of the patients performed appreciably better with their hearing aids.
“We don’t think it’s just that wearing hearing aids makes the person more alert,” claimed lead study author Timothy E. Hullar, M.D., professor of otolaryngology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “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 is worth noting that many of the study participants did not realize they had performed better with the hearing aids than without. However, most did notice a difference.
The researchers acknowledged that this small study is far from conclusive and is really just a precursor to a much larger, and very necessary, study.
“Obviously,” Hullar stated, “it needs to be repeated in a much larger study, and we’re seeking funding to do that.”
Even if the connection between hearing and balance is still not perfectly understood, the connection between being fully aware of your surroundings and balance is. Having your senses functioning at optimal capacity will help you maintain your balance, and if you are hearing impaired, a modern, technologically advanced hearing aid can help you achieve just that.