Most of us remember a time when we would (literally) fall down and get right back up. But this doesn’t seem to be the case as we get older. Falling can be one of the most devastating events in an adult’s life and can lead to the loss of independence, or worse. In the past decade, the ‘fall death rate’ (i.e., the death of an older adult directly attributed to a fall) has risen over 30%, and in the next decade it is estimated that there will be seven fall deaths per hour in the U.S.
Many adults assume feeling off-balance and falling is a normal part of aging, but it is not.
Diagnosing and reducing a patient’s risk of falling is an important part of the work that Dr. Keith N. Darrow, a Neuroscientist and Clinical Audiologist, and his team of specialist at the Excellence In Audiology certified centers, do every day.
Darrow states that, “there is not one simple reason that older adults fall more often, rather a complicated web of changes in blood pressure, nutrition, medication interactions, vision problems and hearing loss that contribute to this increased risk. Although most people don’t instantly think of hearing loss as being a leading cause of falls, the data is clear - a person’s risk of falling can increase by 140-500% with hearing loss (depending on the severity of the loss). Fortunately, we have the tools to treat our patients and help them dramatically reduce their risk of falling.”
Donna O. is 62 years young and one of Darrow’s patients; and she knows from personal experience what it means to fall. Although Donna readily accepted that she was having difficulty hearing others and found herself saying ‘huh’ and ‘what’ more often than she would like to admit, she had no idea that her seemingly benign hearing loss was the reason she recently suffered a fall.
Donna was home alone when she fell; thankfully her daughter was on her way over for lunch when she came in to find her mother writhing in pain on the living room floor. She was rushed to the hospital by ambulance and fortunately after a few unremarkable x-rays and a handful of pain meds she was sent home. Donna knew right away that from here out everything would change. She knew that her daughter and family would endlessly worry about her and that she needed to do whatever it would take to stay in the home she lived in for 40+ years and raised her family in.
Donna and her 2 daughters made the decision that their first step was to set up a consultation with Dr. Darrow’s team at their local Excellence In Audiology certified clinic. They knew they needed to learn more about what they could do to reduce Donna’s risk of falling again. And they instantly realized they were in good hands! Donna and her family met with Dr. Darrow’s team for nearly an hour to talk about her experience, her medical history, her goals, potential modifications to the home and to discuss how her hearing loss must be addressed to significantly reduce her risk of falling again.
Darrow went on to explain, “after a full review of Donna’s case and diagnostic results, it was obvious that her hearing loss was impacting her ability to navigate the world around her and was cause for concern. As soon as we started treating her hearing loss, we could instantly see Donna’s confidence increase and insecurities fade away.”
Donna started treatment nearly 6 months ago and has a renewed sense of independence and zest for life. She keeps up with her regular visits to her local Excellence In Audiology certified center and has made many positive changes in her life. Her restored hearing provides her with a newfound confidence to hear everything everywhere, including when she is out with her kids and grandchildren at noisy restaurants. Under the supervision of Dr. Darrow’s team, Donna is regularly exercising, eating healthier, and has made some simple low-cost modifications at home (e.g., nightlights throughout the home, removed clutter and trip-hazards, installed a grab bar in the shower, and more).
Donna’s daughter commented, “I am forever grateful that Dr. Darrow and his team have given mom back her life. We no longer endlessly worry about her falling and ending up in the hospital”.