Hearing Loss leads to Fall Risk

Hearing Loss and Fall Risk studies:

This article explains the links between falls and hearing loss and was originally published in Aging Answers magazine, March 2015.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that falls are the leading cause of injury-related emergency department visits, hospitalizations and deaths for Ohioans age 65 and older.  Falls among older adults cost Ohio residents $646 million in 2012. Moreover, the rate of falling has been increasing.  From 2000 to 2012, Ohioans aged 65+ experienced a 167% increase in the number of fatal falls and a 136% increase in the fall death rate.  On average, 2.7 older Ohioans suffered fatal falls each day in 2012.

But there’s a ray of hope in this disconcerting data.  Most falls can be prevented.  And preventing falls is the number one thing you can do to keep your loved ones aging safe at home.

Hearing Loss and Fall Risk

Two recent studies point to a critical link between hearing loss and an increased risk of falls.

In one study, researchers from Johns Hopkins University found that people with only a 25 dB hearing loss (considered mild), were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling, even when adjusting for other factors, such as age and inner ear (vestibular) function.  The same study showed that as hearing loss increased beyond the 25 dB loss, so did the chances of falling.

Another study from Washington University in St. Louis showed that patients with hearing aids in both ears performed better on balance tests when their hearing aids were ON compared with when they were OFF.

Hearing Check-ups – An Easy Way to Identify Fall Risk

Although the NIH reports that 47% of adults 75 and older have a hearing impairment, the good news is that it is easy to find out how much loss is present, and that the super-majority of people with hearing loss can effectively be treated with hearing-assistive devices, especially hearing aids.

A simple step to identify and reduce fall risk is to insist mom and dad get a hearing check-up.  This easy test is non-invasive, painless, and takes less than and an hour or two if you have a convenient location to get a hearing evaluation nearby.

Some Audiologists and hearing aid fitters do not charge anything for a hearing evaluation, and will share the audiogram and other test results to help you determine if you have a hearing loss, if any exists, so be sure to ask about costs and what you can expect when you schedule.

Hearing Aids – An Ounce of Prevention

This next step is critical but by no means easy, given the ambivalence many older adults feel about hearing aids.  If the hearing loss is treatable with hearing aids or another assistive device — make sure they wear them!

While hearing aid performance continues to rise, some prices and sizes have fallen, meaning they’re more affordable and discreet than ever.  If their current aids are not working properly, demand the assistance you deserve to make sure the aids are functioning, have been fitted correctly, and proper training in use and care was provided.  Above all, help set realistic expectation since no assistive device is capable of returning hearing to a pristine state.

 Consider Home Modifications

“Fall prevention is absolutely critical to remaining safely in their homes.” says Brian Pritchard, a home modification specialist for HandyPro of Cleveland.

“That TV commercial we’ve all seen, of someone who has fallen and can’t get up, is giving people a solution that only helps them AFTER they’ve experienced an injury.  We want people to prevent falls from happening in the first place.”

Start with the basics, like installing grab bars inside and outside the bathing area, and near the toilet.  “Many people use hand towel holders for support or to pull themselves up, and are pulling them right out of the wall and down to the floor when they fall. You need something properly installed and designed to support enough weight to keep you safe”.

Final tips to reduce fall risk

  1. Get your hearing tested annually and wear your hearing aids on a regular basis.
  2. Declutter to make the home safer and install proper safety handrails and other assistive devices.
  3. Keep active.  Begin a regular exercise program and seek assistance from community fitness programs if you need help getting things kick-started.
  4. Use special precautions when venturing outside in the winter.  Ice can be treacherous and the body dehydrates faster in the colder weather.
  5. Have your health care provider review your medicines for any that may cause dizziness or fainting.

 

Caring for hearing aids, TIPS

To get the longest life out of your hearing aids, follow these tips..

Protect your hearing aids from high heat, ear wax, and excessive moisture.

Don’t expose them to direct sunlight, and never leave them in a car, especially in direct sunlight.  Avoid other locations where they might be subjected to extreme temperatures.

Avoid excessive moisture. It’s a good idea to remove them if you’ll be exercising vigorously or engaging in any other type of activity which will cause you to sweat excessively. And of course, do not wear them while bathing, swimming and in the rain wear a hat or use an umbrella to protect them.

Clean your hearing aids at night when you take them out. Wipe them with a soft, dry cloth and inspect the tube tip opening to see if any wax has accumulated. If it has, use a hearing aid brush and pick to gently remove the wax.

NEVER use any type of alcohol or cleaning solvent for cleaning, as solvents can be very harmful to the plastic material that the hearing aid is made of.

Hairsprays and hair gels can also harm the material and can cause clogging of the microphone openings. It is wise to insert the hearing aid after the hairspray dries.

If you follow these simple tips you can keep your hearing aid working properly for many years to come.

Diplomats’ Hearing Loss caused in Cuba investigated

WASHINGTON — A senior federal law enforcement official told NBC News on Thursday that several U.S agencies are investigating allegations that Cuban officials directed some kind of ultrasound energy at American diplomats in the Havana embassy that left several with damaged hearing. 

Hearing Loss Audiogram

The official said the State Department’s office of Diplomatic Security is leading the investigation. The FBI has one person in Havana, a legal attaché with the American embassy, who can help. The FBI may be asked to provide technical assistance in the probe.

 ‘Acoustic attack’ in US embassy in Cuba blamed for diplomats’ hearing loss 2:31

One State Department official confirmed reports that the “incidents” involved symptoms of hearing loss. And a Cuban government official told NBC News that the Americans had complained of an acoustic “incident.”

The State Department has also left open the possibility of a third country being involved. Iran, North Korea and Russia all have a significant diplomatic presence in Cuba.

“We don’t have any definitive answers about the source or the cause of what we consider to be incidents,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters Wednesday.

She said that there are a “variety of physical symptoms in these American citizens who work for the U.S. government. We take those incidents very seriously, and there is an investigation currently under way.”

Cuban officials have denied directing any actions against the diplomats and have launched their own investigation.

“Cuba has never, nor would it ever, allow that the Cuban territory be used for any action against accredited diplomatic agents or their families,” the Cuban foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday. “It reiterates its willingness to cooperate in the clarification of this situation.”

Also on Thursday, Canadian officials said one of their diplomats in Cuba was treated for hearing loss. The Canadian government is “aware of unusual symptoms affecting Canadian and U.S. diplomatic personnel and their families in Havana. The government is actively working — including with US and Cuban authorities – to ascertain the cause,” a spokesperson told the Associated Press.

The U.S. first learned of the health issues toward the end of 2016, more than a year after the U.S. reopened its embassy in Havana.

Nauert said the Americans working in Cuba had returned stateside for “medical reasons.”

Image: An exterior view of the U.S. Embassy is seen in Havana, Cuba
An exterior view of the U.S. Embassy is seen in Havana, Cuba, June 19, 2017. Alexandre Meneghini / Reuters file

Two Cuban officials in Washington were asked to leave the U.S. in May as a result of the incidents.

The development threatens to set back relations between the two countries, but the U.S. embassy in Havana remains open.

The Cuban government has a responsibility and an obligation under the Geneva Convention to protect our diplomats,” Nauert said. “That is part of the reason why this is such a major concern of ours, why we take this so seriously…in addition to the protection and security of Americans.”

“What this requires is providing medical examinations to these people,” Nauert said. “Initially, when they’d started reporting what I will just call symptoms, it took time to figure out what it was, and this is still ongoing. So we’re monitoring it.”

A U.S. government official said several colleagues at the U.S. embassy in Havana were evacuated back to the United States for hearing problems and other symptoms over the past six months. Some subsequently got hearing aids, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Washington, D.C. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said the alleged incidents violated international norms: “The Cuban government has been harassing U.S. personnel working in Havana for decades. This has not stopped with President Obama’s appeasement. Personal harm to U.S. officials shows the extent the Castro regime will go and clearly violates international norms.”

Washington and Havana re-established diplomatic relations in 2015 after more than five decades of hostilities, re-opening embassies in each other’s capitals and establishing a new chapter of engagement between the former Cold War foes.

President Donald Trump rolled back part of his predecessor Barack Obama’s policy toward Cuba, but has left in place many of the changes, including the re-opened U.S. Embassy in Havana.

Extend hearing aid battery life, tip

There was a recent discovery to make hearing aid  batteries last 85% longer. 

And who made this discovery?

Would you believe it was a 14-year-old boy.

His name is Ethan Manuell of Rochester, Minnesota, He learned that batteries can last up to 85 percent longer when left exposed to oxygen, after removing the adhesive tab, before being inserted into the hearing aid itself.

Zinc Air hearing aid batteries have a tab or sticker attached to the back of them.

Ethan learned that the best way to improve battery life is to remove the tab from the back of the battery , then wait five minutes before inserting the battery into the hearing aid.

This will allow ample time to air-charge the battery to receive essential oxygen.

So, next time you need to change your batteries, try his trick so you can get more life out of them.

Decrease hearing loss risk, EAT MORE FISH

A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a strong connection between eating two or more servings of some fish per week and a decreased risk of hearing loss.

Researchers analyzed almost two decades’ of data from 65,215 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study II. In the study, women self-reported on their diet, as well as about hearing loss, among many other things.

In this prospective study among 65,215 US women, we observed a lower risk of hearing loss among women who consumed 2 or more servings of fish per week. Consumption of any specific type of fish (tuna, dark-meat fish, light-meat fish, or shellfish) tended to be associated with lower risk. In addition, higher intake of long-chain omega-3 (fatty acids) PUFAs was inversely associated with risk. These findings suggest that diet may be important in the pathogenesis of preventing or reducing hearing loss.

Evidence suggests regular fish consumption (1–2 servings per week) may protect against several diseases, such as coronary artery disease (40), sudden cardiac death (41), ischemic stroke (21), atrial fibrillation (42), cognitive decline (43), and dementia (44). The proposed benefits of fish intake may be attributable in large part to the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids that fish provide. Finfish and shellfish are the chief dietary sources of the major long-chain omega-3 PUFAs, EPA (20:5n−3) and DHA (22:6n−3), often referred to as “marine” fatty acids. Intake is particularly essential for DHA, because it cannot be synthesized appreciably after infancy (45). DHA appears to be important during auditory neuro-development, and higher dietary intake of DHA in breast milk or supplemented formula during early infancy is associated with accelerated maturation of auditory brainstem response latencies (4647).

To read  the entire study click here  http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/100/5/1371.full