The Danger of Falling Down

Posted by Kerrie Denner

By Kimball Forbes, MCD

One of our greatest goals as hearing and balance specialists is to help prevent our patients from falling down. Part of the inner ear is the balance system and since we are balance specialists, our great desire is to prevent falls.

The following are some statistics from an article by Dr. Richard E. Gans, Ph.D., founder of the American Institute of Balance that shows why preventing falls is so vital:

A review over the last ten years indicates:

• Dizziness is the number one complaint of persons over 70.

• 85% of vertigo and balance dysfunctions may be inner ear related.

• Individuals with BPPV have a great incidence of depression, falls, and reduced activity of daily living.

• Falls are the leading cause of accidental deaths in persons over 65.

• Falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injury and bone fractures.

• Falls are the sixth leading cause of death in Seniors.

• 20 percent of those who sustain a hip fracture from a fall will die within a year.

• Of those who do fall, 20% will require placement within a long-term care facility.

• Over 1000 drugs list vertigo as a side-effect.

• It is estimated that by age 80, there could be a loss of 50% of vestibular neurons.

A study done by Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health and Ferucci found that people with a 25-decibel hearing loss, classified as mild, were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling. Every additional 10-decibel of hearing loss increased the chances of falling by 1.4 fold.

Vision: Vision problems such a glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetes retinopathy can affect our balance.

Heart: Circulatory problems to heart issues can influence our balance.

Sedentary life-style: Obesity can affect balance.

The following people may be at risk for falls:

Those who have a history of previous falls; Prior fractures of legs or hips; Diabetes; Reported fear of falling; certain drugs can increase imbalance or vertigo; people who feel dizzy or have imbalance when they turn their head or move quickly.

The following are eleven things which may be helpful for those who feel at risk for falling. First, Be aware of your surroundings. Second, Eliminate clutter for traffic areas. Third, slow down. Fourth, use nightlights in your home. Fifth, use the restroom frequently to avoid rushing. Sixth, install grab bars in the bathroom areas. Seventh, increase wattage of lights in the home. Eighth, remove throw rugs from the floors to prevent tripping. Ninth, limit alcohol intake. Tenth, be mindful of pets at your feet. Eleventh, avoid flip-flops or loose fitting slippers.

You can also have your balance evaluated by an Audiologist (hearing and balance specialist). The test helps the audiologist determine why you are dizzy, then vestibular rehabilitation may be very helpful to retrain our brain how to avoid falls.

We are excited that proper evaluation of balance problems and proper vestibular rehabilitation are extremely helpful for many patients.

Kimball B. Forbes has been practicing as a licensed Clinical Audiologist (Hearing and Balance Specialist) in Southern Utah for over 30 years. He established 10 hearing and balance clinics throughout Southern Utah.

Source: Moapa Valley Progress


Accessed 6/11/2014

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