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Home Sweet Home: Safety and Fall Prevention

According to the National Center on Aging, 1 in 4 people over the age of 65 fall each year.  Even more concerning, falls often result in hospitalization or nursing home stays, and are the top cause of fatal injury in aging adults. Up to 75% of falls occur in a person’s home, so it is wise to evaluate your space to make it safer. Here are some places to consider:

  1. Trip Hazards: Collision with objects in the floor, such as rugs, cords, or other clutter can cause a fall. If possible, try to move these objects away from the main walking path so you are less likely to trip. Also remember that your home may have other uneven walking surfaces, such as stairs or door thresholds, which can also pose a tripping risk. Railings can be added in these areas to provide a place to grab for support if needed.
  2. Lighting: Ensuring that all floors are properly lit, especially at night, can help prevent falls. Consider using a nightlight to provide extra illumination in the dark.
  3. Bathroom: The bathroom can be one of the riskiest places in a home. Adding safety features such as grab bars around the toilet or tub, or non-slip mats/decals in the shower, can help prevent accidents. A non-slip shower chair may be a good option for someone that feels unsteady standing while showering.

People suffering from chronic dizziness or imbalance are at a higher risk of falling. Call our office at 904-399-0350 to schedule an evaluation if you experience these symptoms.

What is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)?

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) is a common inner ear problem that causes short episodes of sudden vertigo, or the sensation that the room is spinning. Some people also have symptoms of lightheadedness, nausea, or vomiting that occur as well. BPPV episodes are typically very short, lasting only seconds to a few minutes.

Symptoms of BPPV are triggered by sudden changes in movement, such as rolling over or sitting up in bed, bending the head forward to look down, or tipping the head backward to look up.

BPPV occurs due to changes within the inner ear balance organ. Deep within the inner ear, there are 3 small structures called semicircular canals. The semicircular canals help us detect motion and maintain balance. BPPV is caused by tiny calcium crystals moving out of place and becoming free floating in one of the semicircular canals. These crystals move around in the canal with changes in gravity and head position. This interferes with the signal sent from the inner ear to the brain, resulting in vertigo.

For some people, symptoms of BPPV resolve on their own. BPPV can also be treated with a procedure that guides the dislodged crystals back into place. In many cases, the symptoms resolve after these treatments. If you believe you may be suffering from BPPV, call our office at 904-399-0350 to schedule an evaluation.

Simone Biles and “The Twisties”

If you have been following the Tokyo Olympics this Summer, you have likely heard about American gymnast Simone Biles suffering from a case of what she calls “the twisties,” causing her to withdraw from several Olympic events. But what exactly are “the twisties” and what does that have to do with ears? Gymnasts describe it as losing control of their body mid-trick and losing sense of where they are in the air. The sensation is not only disorienting, it’s dangerous and can lead to serious injury.

The human brain uses three sensory systems to stay upright: the vestibular (or inner ear) system, the visual system, and the somatosensory (or proprioception) system. While in motion, like when a gymnast is performing a skill, the brain receives input from these three systems and compares them to an “internal model” of what the move should feel like based on past experiences. Essentially, gymnasts and other athletes tirelessly train so that they can perform complicated movements easily and with “muscle memory”. However, in certain situations, such as the Olympics, athletes may try to compensate for increased psychological stress by trying to consciously control movements that were previously automatic. The brain then loses the ability to initiate learned motor sequencies, resulting in what we now know as “the twisties.” 

As it turns out. “the twisties” is fairly common in the sport of gymnastics, as more and more current and former athletes are speaking out about their experiences with this condition. More information on the science behind “the twisties” and Simone Biles performance at the Olympics can be found online in the coming weeks. 

Balance Awareness Week

Here at Jacksonville Hearing and Balance, we focus on all aspects of the ears and their functions, everything from ear wax removal to complex balance disorders. Your ears not only control your ability to hear, but also play an integral role in your balance. This system is called your vestibular system.

Balance awareness week, September 13 – 19, was established by the Vestibular Disorders Association (VeDA) in an effort to raise awareness of these types of disorders. There is a broad spectrum of vestibular disorders that can are short in duration but some that can also affect patients throughout their life.  Our goal is to help diagnose and lead you to the correct path of treatment.

According to VeDA, there are more than 69 million Americans who are affected by balance disorders. Patients typically describe themselves as “dizzy” or “off balance”. For some patients, they report difficulty while in the dark.  Although these disorders can present in different ways, all can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life. 

Here are a few links talking about Balance Awareness Week and Vestibular Disorders:

If you do have difficulty with balance, here are some tips to help in your daily life:

  1. Speak with your doctor about your symptoms
    • Your primary care doctor can help point you in the right direction
  2. Try to keep track of your symptoms. 
    • What causes it?  What makes it worse? Better?
  3. Remove trip hazards from your home
    • Clear main pathways in your home, i.e. from bed to bathroom,
    • Remove or tape down any area rugs that could have the corners pull up
  4. Make sure there is adequate lighting
    • Use of nightlight in the home in high traffic areas
    • Use of outside lights around steps or uneven surfaces
  5. Footwear
    • Footwear should be of adequate fit, not slide off when walking, and be comfortable