Fall prevention efforts focused on seniors with a hearing deficit can be more successful through the use of hearing aids, according to a recent study published in the journal The Laryngoscope.
Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found that those who turned on hearing aids in both ears performed better on a standardized balance test than those whose hearing aids were turned off—demonstrating for the first time that sound information also plays a part in maintaining a person's stability.
Although the study involved only 14 people (all between the ages of 65 and 91), the scientists concluded that hearing aids or cochlear implants can help restore balance and prevent falls in the elderly.
"The participants appeared to be using the sound information coming through their hearing aids as auditory reference points or landmarks to help maintain balance," said senior author Timothy E. Hullar, MD in a press release. "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."