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Studies link vestibular/balance disorders, dizziness to hearing ability and falls
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Studies link vestibular/balance disorders, dizziness to hearing ability and falls

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Piedmont HealthCare Ear, Nose and Throat and The American Academy of Audiology are supporters of Balance Awareness Week, held Sept. 19-25. The observance has been designated by the Vestibular Disorders Association to increase awareness about balance problems. While some balance disorders are incurable, faster and more accurate diagnosis, along with effective treatment and coping strategies can greatly improve quality of life.

Good hearing health is important in preventing falls as well as other conditions. Vestibular/balance disorders, including vertigo and dizziness, often associated with hearing loss, are associated with a number of conditions including depression, anxiety, panic disorders, fainting or light-headedness, nausea and imbalance.

Falls are the leading cause of injury and death in older adults. While there are many reasons why older adults are at risk of falling, including medications, vision loss, diabetes, heart disease and confusion; hearing loss also is associated with a higher risk for falling.

“We know that there’s a direct link between untreated hearing loss and falls,” said Dr. David Richardson, audiologist at Piedmont HealthCare ENT.

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“Audiologists perform an extensive battery of tests as part of the evaluation of the vestibular system,” Richardson explained.

Depending on the findings of the exams, an audiologist may provide management options and, in some cases, may refer the patient to an otolaryngologist, neurologist or physical therapist.

“Balance Awareness Week provides educational information so that consumers know where to turn when they have dizziness, feel faint or have balance issues,” said Richardson.

He also explained that audiologists are healthcare professionals who evaluate, treat and manage hearing loss and balance disorders in patients of all ages. Tinnitus, which is a type of ringing in the ears, also can be associated with balance issues.

Vestibular symptoms and dizziness are significant problems in older Americans. It is estimated that 30% of persons older than 60 years and almost 50% of those over the age of 85 years have dizziness and balance challenges along with related symptoms. According to a study by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, individuals with untreated mild hearing loss were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately 48 million Americans have some form of hearing loss. Those numbers continue to rise annually. For more information on vestibular disorders related to balance, visit https://www.audiology.org/practice-resources/public-awareness/balance-awareness-week/. For more information on hearing loss, visit www.richardsonhearing.com.

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