September 25, 2018
Health & Fitness
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Did You Know Hearing Aids Also Improve Balance?

Robin Robinson- Doctor of Audiology
Robin Robinson- Doctor of Audiology's picture
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March 6, 2018

A study conducted by Johns Hopkins and funded by the National Institute of Health showed people who didn't hear that well had an increased likelihood of falls. This information led researchers to question whether hearing aids held the key to better balance for people with hearing loss.

In a study by Johns Hopkins, hearing loss was shown to affect people's balance, even when that hearing loss was considered mild. It was strongly suspected that “a lack of spatial awareness played a part in the increased likelihood of falls.” Spatial awareness, or how we recognize how far or close something is, has a lot to do with our ears. Our ears hear distance in a way that most people aren't aware of and typically take for granted.

Research into ear-eye coordination has shown that the brain pairs up visual and auditory cues. The brain uses the ears and eyes to judge gaps between sight and sound that might seem instantaneous to us. The brain uses this information to form a perceptional shape of the environment.

How important are your ears to determining the significance of visual cues? Well, an audio/visual study at University of Rochester found that “although humans are primarily visual creatures, our research estimating relative distance is more precise when visual cues are supported with corresponding auditory signals. Our brains recognize those signals even when they are separated from visual cues by a time that is too brief to consciously notice.”

Researchers found that if they disrupted the audio/visual information, “participants were more likely to perceive an object as more distant — even in cases when the object was actually shifted toward the participant.”

So, ears help people determine their environment in ways we are just becoming aware of, but does that mean that correcting hearing loss can aid someone's balance?

Studies indicate hearing aids can help the balance of people with hearing loss. In fact, participants had better balance when they used their hearing aids compared to when they did not. The participants appeared to be using the sound information coming through their hearing aids as auditory reference points or landmarks to help maintain balance.

If you'd like to have a hearing test or a balance assessment, call Hearing Solutions Audiology Center to schedule your appointment at 410-672-1244.

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