As you get older, there are many changes you will start to see. Certain things get harder to do. Joints stiffen and ache, and you need to be more careful. One problem that many people experience but don’t expect is balance. Many older people experience balance problems at some point, but may not realize the danger it poses. When your balance is off, it is easy to fall and be injured. Here at Scottsdale Ear, Nose & Throat, we want you to be fully aware of the dangers of balance disorders.
Falling is one of the most common causes of injury in older people. More than one in four adults over 65 falls every year and one in five falls cause serious injury. In 2014, more than 27,000 American adults died as a result of a fall. In the same year, more than seven million older adults required medical treatment or restricted movement for at least a day as a result of a fall. Head injuries and hip fractures are the most common serious injuries caused by falling, with 300,000 older people hospitalized for hip fractures each year.
Reasons for falling
You don’t have to be over 65 to fall, but there are a number of medical conditions that are more common in older people which contribute to the risk of falling. Difficulties with walking and balance are very common risk factors and vision problems, foot pain, and lower body weakness can also pose a risk. Certain medications can cause balance problems too.
Then there are hazards such as uneven ground or steps and things around the house that might be tripped over. Things like throw rugs and clutter about the house have caused many people to fall. Outside, it is easy to trip on a crack or bump in the sidewalk for someone who can’t walk very well.
The consequences of falling
We’ve already mentioned serious injuries that can be caused by falling, but that’s not the only worry. Even minor injuries can be a nuisance and mean a loss of independence. A twisted ankle or broken arm may not be all that serious, but it means having to rely on people to help for a while. Whether injured or not, people who have a fall can become nervous about falling again. This can lead to isolation. It is common for older people to become less active because of a fear of falling, which ironically increases their risk of falling.
How to avoid falling
There are some things that can be done to lessen the risk of falling. A few changes around the home to reduce those throw rugs and clutter will help, and grab rails can be put in problematic areas such as the shower. Strength and balance exercises can help. Check-ups with your doctor, optician, and ENT specialists are all a good idea.
Come for a balance check-up
If you have any concerns about your balance, Scottsdale Ear, Nose & Throat can offer a number of vestibular and balance tests. Call (480) 684-1080 to schedule an appointment today.
Debra Hamila received her master’s degree in audiology from Cleveland State University and her Au.D. from Arizona School of Health Sciences and has been a practicing audiologist for more than 33 years. She has worked in a variety of ENT offices, hospital and clinical settings.