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Research Letter
Feb 27, 2012

Hearing Loss and Falls Among Older Adults in the United States

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (Dr Lin), Department of Epidemiology and Center on Aging and Health, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health (Dr Lin), and Longititudinal Studies Section, National Institute on Aging (Dr Ferrucci), Baltimore, Maryland.

Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(4):369-371. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.728

Identifying modifiable risk factors for falls in older adults is of significant public health importance. While hearing is not typically considered a risk factor for falls, a recent report of a cohort of older Finnish female twins demonstrated a strong association between audiometric hearing loss and incident falls.1 Possible pathways that could explain this observed association include comcomitant cochlear and vestibular dysfunction, poor awareness of the auditory and spatial environment, or mediation through the effects of hearing loss on cognitive load and shared attention. The latter 2 pathways, which suggest a possible causal pathway between hearing loss and falling, are intriguing because hearing loss is highly prevalent but remains vastly undertreated in older adults.2,3 The objective of this current study was to investigate the cross-sectional association of audiometric hearing loss with self-reported falls in a representative sample of the United States population aged 40 to 69 years who participated in the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES).