It’s no surprise that falling and the injuries that often come with it is one of the big fears we have as we get older or watch loved ones get older.
According to the World Health Organization, there are 37.3 million falls that are severe enough to require medical attention each year. While anyone of any age can fall and is at risk of injury, age is one of the most significant risk factors for a fall and associated injury. This injury could be bruises, bone fractures, or even head injuries.
While falls can be attributed to several factors such as physical hazards in the home or physical ability, experts stress that in many cases, it’s balance disorders that are to blame for falls.
What are balance disorders?
Balance disorders can go by many different names, including Labyrinthitis, Ménière’s disease, and positional vertigo, but the effect is the same. A balance disorder affects your inner ear and causes dizziness or unsteadiness – a perfect recipe for a fall. The National Institutes of Health estimate that about 15 percent of American adults (33 million) suffer from balance or dizziness problems.
In some cases, balance disorders also come with a side of hearing loss, which can add to the risk of falls. According to a study from Johns Hopkins, untreated hearing loss has been linked to an increased risk of falls. The study found that these falls can lead to broken bones and a general decline in health.
If you find you’re experiencing unsteadiness or dizziness (or hearing loss), the first step is to seek medical attention from your physician and hearing healthcare professional. Treatment such as medicine or recommended exercises can help minimize the effects of a balance disorder.
Whatever is causing your unsteadiness, or if you’re looking to be proactive, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from falls and injury.
Tips for fall and balance safety
Don’t wait for a fall to happen. Follow tips like these can help you reduce your risk and protect your health:
- Identify hazards in your home – Clutter, steep steps, throw rugs, poor lighting, unstable furniture, extension cords, and even pets can pose a risk at home.
- Medical treatment – Working with your physician and hearing healthcare provider is key to reducing the risk of falls. They can make recommendations for diet and exercise, medication, and other interventions to improve overall health and manage health conditions that may be contributing to a balance disorder or fall risk. They can also monitor medications you’re taking that may be impacting your balance.
- Balance exercises and muscle-strengthening – activities such as Tai Chi, yoga, and various balance exercises that focus on shifting weight and strengthening leg muscles can help reduce your risk of falls.
- Schedule an eyesight evaluation – Poor eyesight can also play a role in falls. Get regular checkups to check your vision and prescription tune-ups if needed.
- Schedule a hearing evaluation – With the link between hearing loss and increased risk of falls, it’s always a smart idea to get regular hearing evaluations.
- Practice good sleep hygiene – Lack of sleep can throw anyone’s balance off. Make sure you’re getting enough with relaxing and sleep-friendly steps like these.
- If needed, use an assistive device – We all need a little extra support sometimes. Your doctor may recommend a cane or walker to help give you the support you need to avoid a fall.
Balance disorders and the falls they can cause become more common as we age. Taking steps like these can help you minimize your risk.
If you are experiencing dizziness or unsteadiness, or you’re ready to schedule that hearing evaluation, contact our office to set up an appointment.