In an apparent first, researchers from Washington University School of Medicine, found that hearing aids can help maintain balance. This study appears to shows that it is sound and not your balance system in the inner ear that helps postural stability.
In the study, 14 people aged 65-91 used standard balance tests to measure their postural balance when their hearing aids were switched on and when the hearing aids were switched off. According to Professor Timothy Hullar, participants “appeared to be using the sound information coming through their hearing aids as auditory reference points or landmarks to help maintain balance”. Professor Hullar compares this with having greater balance when our eyes are open compared to when we are in the dark.
There was one limitation in the study which the researchers acknowledge and that is the participants could tell when their hearing aids were on or off. Having this knowledge could potentially influence their results.
In addition it is also worth noting, despite the statistical significance of the results, it is a small sample study, so more needs to be done. However the study does give an interesting insight to balance and provide us with one more reason why we need to look after our hearing health and address any hearing issues we may be experiencing. This is especially true as we age and balance become more and more an important issue.
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