You may think your poor hearing just means you miss parts of conversations, but a new report suggests it also might make accidental injuries more likely.
"Many adults believe that hearing loss, particularly due to aging, is 'normal' and therefore of little consequence other than, perhaps, social difficulties," said senior study author Dr. Neil Bhattacharyya. He is an otolaryngologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
"We were motivated to create this study since hearing is a special sense that plays an important role in warning us of danger in our surroundings," he explained. "We wanted to see if a poorer hearing ability was related to accidental injuries."
Turns out, it was.
The findings suggest "a strong relationship between poorer hearing and accidental injury, especially since the rate of injury increased steadily as the reported hearing worsened," Bhattacharyya said in a hospital news release.
To come to that conclusion, his team analyzed data from the U.S. National Health Interview Survey and found that 6.6 million respondents said they'd suffered an accidental injury in the previous three months. One in six of those people said their hearing was less than excellent or good.
People with poor hearing were almost twice as likely to suffer an injury as those with excellent hearing, though the study did not prove that hearing loss caused accident risk to rise.
Injuries during leisure activities were most strongly linked with poor hearing.
"We found that leisure-related injuries were particularly interesting since individuals may not consider that a high-risk occasion for injury, and may be paying even less attention to their hearing difficulties," Bhattacharya said. "Ultimately, hearing loss may be more consequential than one might think."
Accidental injuries are a leading cause of medical treatment and death in the United States. Accidental injuries accounted for 5 percent of all deaths in 2011 and 28 million emergency department visits in 2013, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Since screenings and treatments for hearing loss are widely available, it should be viewed as a preventable risk factor for accidental injuries, the researchers suggested.
The study was published March 22 in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on hearing problems.
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