Hearing loss linked to higher falling risk

March 31, 2012 at 8:02 PM
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BALTIMORE, March 31 (UPI) -- Hearing loss, already linked to dementia and other health ills, is also associated with an increased risk of falling, U.S. researchers said.

Dr. Frank Lin of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Bloomberg School of Public Health, and a colleague, Dr. Luigi Ferrucci of the National Institute on Aging, used data from the 2001 to 2004 cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to arrive at their findings. The research program has periodically gathered health data from thousands of Americans since 1971.

From 2001 to 2004, 2,017 study participants ages 40-69 had their hearing tested and answered questions about whether they had fallen in the previous year.

Researchers also collected demographic information, including age, sex and race, and tested participants' vestibular function -- a measure of how well they kept their balance.

The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found people with a 25-decibel hearing loss -- classified as mild hearing loss -- were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling. Every additional 10 decibels of hearing loss increased the chances of falling by 1.4-fold.

The finding held true, even when researchers accounted for other factors linked with falling, including age, sex, race, cardiovascular disease and vestibular function.

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