Hearing Loss Linked to Falls in Those Under Age 70

Each 10 decibels of hearing loss increases risk of falling by 1.4-fold

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Hearing loss is associated with increased odds of falling, according to research published in the Feb. 27 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Frank R. Lin, M.D., Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins University, and Luigi Ferrucci, M.D., Ph.D., from the National Institute on Aging -- both in Baltimore, examined data from a representative sample of the U.S. population aged 40 to 69 years who participated in the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (2001 to 2004), underwent audiometric testing, and answered a questionnaire on fall history (2,017 participants). Hearing loss was defined according to the definition established by the World Health Organization: by a speech-frequency pure tone average of thresholds at 0.5, 1, 2, and 4 kHz in the better-hearing ear.

The researchers found that 14.3 percent of participants had a hearing loss of greater than 25 dB, and 4.9 percent of the participants reported falling over in the preceding 12 months. Hearing loss correlated significantly with the odds of reported falls, in an unadjusted model. For every 10-dB increase in hearing loss, the odds of an individual reporting a fall in the preceding 12 months was increased 1.4-fold. The magnitude and significance of this association remained after adjusting for demographic factors, cardiovascular factors, and vestibular balance function. Restricting the analytical cohort by excluding those with moderate or severe hearing loss did not affect the magnitude of the results.

"Greater hearing loss was independently associated with self-reported falls over the preceding 12 months," the authors write.

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