With one in four Americans aged 65 and older falling each year—and more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually—falls represent a serious threat to seniors’ physical and mental health, safety, independence, and even financial security. During May, which is Better Hearing & Speech Month, UMMC based audiologist Denise Pouncey encourages everyone to take proactive steps to reduce their risk and loved ones’ risk of falls.
“Our balance system helps us walk, run, and move without falling, and many people don’t realize that much of our balance system is controlled within the inner ear,” explains Dr. Pouncey. “An undiagnosed balance issue can put someone at higher risk of falling. Evaluation by an audiologist can help identify a balance problem. If a problem is identified, balance rehabilitation can help improve daily functioning and reduce the risk of fall.”
In addition to balance issues, factors that put someone at risk of falling include home/environmental issues such as poor lighting, steep or damaged stairs, and uneven floor surfaces inside (e.g., moving from carpet to hard wood) and outside (e.g., a sidewalk)—as well as health issues such as changes to hearing or vision, muscle weakness or numbness, typical aging, certain medications, and conditions such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and arthritis.
Falls are a major public health challenge. Consider these statistics:
“One of the unfortunate realities of falls is that for some people, especially those who have fallen before, a fear of falling will develop. This puts a person at risk for more falls, reduces their ability to be self-sufficient, and can lead to social isolation and depression,” Dr. Pouncey continued. “Again, this is why prevention is key.”
UMMC Ear, Nose & Throat offers this advice for preventing falls:
For more information, or to schedule a hearing or balance assessment, UMMC Ear, Nose & Throat at (601) 815-4368.