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Hearing Aid Perk: Can Wearing One Improve Your Balance?

Balance

Wearing a hearing aid could have an unexpected benefit - it could improve your balance. A study carried out at the Washington University in St. Louis uncovered this unexpected benefit. In this study, researchers challenged a group of older participants to a series of balance tests with their hearing aids were turned on and again when they were turned off. The participants were significantly better at preserving their balance during the more challenging balance tests when their hear aids were turned on.

Why does better hearing improve balance? It's long been known that we use visual cues to help maintain equilibrium, but, as this study shows you also use auditory information. Auditory input, for maintaining balance, may be even more important in situations where visual information is limited, such as navigating in the dark. Inside your inner ear are semicircular canals that play a critical role in keeping you upright and balanced. It's this part of your ear that allows your body to adjust to sudden changes in position so that you don't fall. Tiny hair cells inside the fluid-filled semicircular canals detect motion through space and transmit the information through the acoustic nerve to the brain - so your body can adjust quickly to positional changes to maintain balance.

This study suggests that auditory information independent of input from the semicircular canals helps you maintain balance and equilibrium. In other words, good hearing, as well as input from your inner ear, is important for keeping balanced when you move around. Having a healthy sense of balance and being able to adjust quickly to changes in position reduces your risk of falling.

As you can see, hearing is important for staying connected with the outside world and for safety, in more ways than one. Without a good sense of hearing, you may not hear the sounds of approaching danger. Plus, you may be at higher risk of falling. Diminished hearing isn't just a nuisance - it can negatively affect your health and well-being. Don't forget to get your hearing checked.

References:

  • Medical News Today. "Balance in older adults may improve with hearing aids" December 18, 2014.